Friday, June 22, 2012

Rainy Day

It's been rainy and miserable most every day this week. I won't complain too much because we do need the rain, but it has meant that everyone at Rotary have been cramped inside all day, every day. So I just so happened to have this ginormous stack of coloring books and crayons that my friend, Kelsey Willis, sent me a few months ago. I've been sitting on them and waiting for a proverbial "rainy day." Now, we've had 4 actual rainy days this week and they have been the perfect solution! Not only did the kids enjoy having an activity to do, but some of the younger moms got in on the action and did some coloring as well!

Someone had a little help!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Sala Kakuhle ("Stay Well" / "Goodbye")

Where to start? In the time between my last blog and this one, much has happened. Almost 2 weeks ago, Jenny was invited to a meeting in Ngangalizwe where she was essentially ambushed by police and angry Waterfall residents. This group of residents demanded the clinic be closed and threatened to come do harm to us if it weren’t (much like they did with the burning of the shacks). The police present said not a word of objection. What choice did we have? We stopped going to work for our own safety while trying to get some answers from the municipality. They were in agreement with the Waterfall residents that the Project should be closed, though with more logical reasons and seemingly better judgment than the mob violence of the Waterfall group. The municipality feared that things would escalate to an even more severe level and that people would be hurt. As well, the Project still being there encouraged people to come back and resettle on the dump. The final word was that we must close. And so we have. The Itipini Community Project is gone. Last week, we cleared out all of the buildings. All of our medical supplies and patient records went to the Ngangalizwe clinic (a government clinic we worked very closely with), our play equipment was broken down and taken to the Temba Lihle children’s home (where they don’t have any play structures), and one of our containers is going to the Themba hospice to use for a new kitchen. Everything else has been put into storage for the time being and we’ll slowly start making our way through it and selling it. For the past few days, our wood workshop men and a few others have been dismantling the wooden buildings so that the timber, doors, zinc, etc. can be sold or used. The place looks like a disaster zone today.

Inside the clinic

Long view of the project

Where the wood workshop and a playset for the kids used to be

Inside the preschool

The rainbow container. No awning, no bench, no people.

No roof on the clinic

In good news, new developments with the municipality have been arising right and left in the last few weeks. They seem to all be small victories to be sure, but they are victories nonetheless and they are steadily getting us closer to housing for those that have been displaced. Jenny met with the General Manager (which is like the vice-Mayor, essentially) two days ago and he gave his apologies for the way that things had been handled by the municipality up to this point. They are working diligently to get housing for the people who are living at Rotary Hall, but are coming up against some problems. There are two areas of government housing, Ilita and Zimbane, that have houses built and available, but those already living in those communities do not want the people from Itipini. When the municipality said they were going to move people to Ilita, residents from Ilita marched at the municipal building in protest. They marched because of this long stigma of people living at Itipini as being the poorest of the poor, low-life, criminal people; a stigma which was affirmed by the municipality when they bulldozed the entire place like it wasn’t home to anyone. They affirmed that stigma when they treated the Itipini residents like they were worthless. They set the tone for how these people should be treated and perceived and now they’re battling against that to find a place for these people to live.

A view of the Ilita housing area. It's not fenced in, I just took this picture from inside the gates of the Ikhwezi Lokusa grounds that back up to the settlement. 

As well, yesterday the Minister for Human Settlement for the Eastern Cape came to Mthatha and had a meeting with residents of Waterfall and also came to the Rotary Hall to meet with our Itipini people there. She is now also working on the issue in trying to get housing for those at Rotary. So progress is slow moving, but it seems to be moving nonetheless.  The show must go on, as they say, and AMM continues to truck along for the time being. We are doing our best to keep on top of the municipality and be a voice for those at Rotary Hall and a liaison between them and the municipality. We are also still helping to feed the folks at Rotary and are doing songs and games with the preschool-age kids to keep them entertained at least a little bit during the day. Their favorite game (and one that requires no equipment) is “Chase Karen Around the Field” – which I have to admit is quite fun!  Singing and playing with the kids in the midst of all of this is I think therapeutic for everyone (I know it is for me). We have take our small joys where we can get them, right?

Singing in the field next to Rotary Hall

Thank you all for your continued thoughts and prayers.