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Let his legacy live on in what we do




There was much talk about Hugo being such a phenomenal child who did so much chesed and was a leader among his peers. People spoke of him as a true Neshoma – the likes of whom we rarely see. Then he passed away and there was this deathly silence.

When we as somewhat cynical journalists heard this talk, we thought that because this child is now gone, he was being put on a pedestal because that so often happens when people die. We don’t generally speak bad of the dead and remember only the good.

But this week I learnt a little more about who Hugo Paluch really was.

Now, I know how easily we throw about statements like “only the good die young”, “he was larger than life” and “he was sent here with a purpose”. There are so many such clichés. But when I say that Hugo was indeed a unique and phenomenal person, I am not giving him the kind of credit he deserves.

Hugo had a huge heart, a great head and he wanted to use these to help those in need. That didn’t mean he gave charity or was kind to beggars. Not this kid! He made it his mission to go out and make a difference and ensure that he changed the lives of the people he befriended on the street.

These “friends” are among the many “faceless people” we generally don’t see. They are those who go through rubbish and take stuff that they can recycle and earn money by doing so. Working with them and changing their lives led to his life’s project.

Hugo has given “faces” to these people in society. And his project will keep growing. Hugo will live on well beyond his years through this work he initiated and believed in.

I don’t know many young adults who have achieved as much in their lives as Hugo Paluch achieved in his 14 years.

While his death devastated his family and friends, there surely is a comfort in his life’s work living through others. 

Each one of us can learn something from this incredible child. For one thing, Hugo lived life to the full and made his days count. He made a difference! From grade 1 when he raised as much as R50 000 in a school raffle for charity, he was making what he did count.

Hugo saw those people who some of us may fear or dismiss or perhaps both, as people with needs, ambitions and as human beings. He gave them much more than the time of day. He gave them friendship, help where he could and he gave them an ear. He SAW them and recognised them not as homeless people or potential criminals, but as people with soul and something to give back.

In doing so, he showed the 26 recyclists he befriended, that there is hope in what sometimes seems like a hopeless world. He showed them that not every one of those people who drive by them every day, will avert their gaze. Not every one of them will ignore them. Not everyone will make as if they don’t exist because there was this one green-eyed boy who cared.

Such is the legacy that will live on in Yeshiva College. It will live on in Glenhazel. It will grow legs and live on in our community and I hope and pray it will live on around this world.

For this young boy made a difference and why not make it our mission to take what he did and carry it further. And if what Hugo did doesn’t quite resonate with you, what does? What can you do to make a difference in other people’s lives?

What can we all learn from this phenomenal child who was clearly too good for this world?

Please let’s all make that effort to ensure that Hugo Paluch didn’t die in vain. Let his death give eternal life to Hugo’s Greenhood or your own project that will make a difference.

To the Paluch family, the SA Jewish Report wishes you only blessings and comfort. To all those who take up the cudgels of Hugo’s Greenhood, we say Kol Hakavod!

Shabbat Shalom!




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