In October this year I was fortunate to travel to Cape Town and visit with some of the projects supported by CHOSA with Jared Sacks (Co-Founder of CHOSA) and Rob Rosenbaum (CHOSA Regional Director). Visits to Ubuhle, Emasi and Philani illuminated the dedication and hard work of project leaders as well as CHOSA staff and volunteers on the ground.
The progress since I was last there in March 2008 was astounding. Ubuhle is growing and a second story was being added to the preschool at the exact time we visited. Mama Pumla was ecstatic. Emasi too is building on new accommodation to house the children who live at the home, more adequately. Philani has facilitated new houses for numerous house-proud families that had been homeless for many years.
I was also privileged to meet with community leaders and residents of two communities of informal settlements (QQ and Symphony Way) whose projects CHOSA currently supports. Whilst all the projects reflect dire need, these communities are the poorest of the poor, disenfranchised on every level imaginable. Housing is makeshift – corrugated iron, scraps and newspaper fashioned to keep out the rain, wind and sand so prevalent in the areas where these communities are forced to reside. Continually faced with eviction and forced removal by local government to more “convenient” locations, the stablility, fortitude and courage of residents is continually put to test.
While in Cape Town, I attended a court hearing which tragically ruled that the eviction of Symphony Way residents was to be upheld and carried out immediately. The heartbreak and pain of residents (many of whom attended the hearing) was palpable. They already been forced to close the creche (preschool) they had started for children in the community because of the uncertainty of their residence. Mothers wept for themselves and their children as they prepared to move to even less adequate housing in a transit camp called Blikkiedorp – an area riddled with robbery, rape and murder, inadequate sanitation and no facilities to speak of. In spite of this unfortunate disruption in their lives, the community spoke of pulling together, grieving together, improving their new environment together and ensuring that they all moved together. Another heartbreaking, yet heartwarming scenario was QQ’s preschool – housed in a shack but providing a structured environment of learning and socialization by community residents for the children of their community. What an inspiration! Plans to move the creche into a larger structure and to build a double story were discussed.
As I walked away to the laughter and singing of the children, I was both moved and overcome with emotion at the courage, determination and heart of communities who only want a better future for their children and are working together to make that happen…