Sunday, September 30, 2012

Friday, September 21, 2012


This morning we were picked up by Carly Tanur, Director of the Mamelani project and set off to see our fourth grassroots project funded by the Stephen Lewis Foundation (SLF).  Accompanying Carly were the three facilitators of the separate programs which make up Mamelani – Numvuyo, Thandi and Cleo.

The three programs are Health, Youth Development Program and Child and Family Support Program.

1.       Health program.   Within this program, Mamelani has workshops for women as well as HIV Support Groups.  They support people with diabetes, hypertension, HIV/AIDS, TB,  and in general look at the body and the mind and the stresses on people’s lives.   Mamelani looks at health in a holistic manner and it is difficult to separate each of the parts from the other.


Their Health Champions Program is new and looks at how to support women to develop their initiatives themselves.  It is a one-year mentoring program to support resourceful women who are taking the initiative in the area of health.  At first 16 women were selected and then narrowed to 10 who are going through a capacity building program .  These women share their ideas and projects with other women and then go through further training and get assistance to expand their projects .  One of the women runs a soup kitchen and another runs an after school care program.  By helping these women get their projects off the ground and connecting with other women, it is building capacity within communities, rather than just handing over resources.


How does Mamelani choose which women to support in the Health Champions program?  The projects are started entirely by the women themselves.  These women have processed the information, turned it into action and are keen to share their experiences and see how we can all harness the energy together and help their programs grow.


The tension is this: either you deliver programs or you fund projects in small ways .


2.       The Youth Development Program focuses on young people who are coming out of state care – 18 and over.  They are not yet independent but not street youth and they require a lot of support.

3.       The Child and Family Support Program is a small program focusing on social work in primary schools.  They might come from families where there is substance abuse, HIV/AIDS, etc. and there are poor services for children in this area. 



As we drove to our first stop at a soup kitchen in Khayelitsha township on the outskirts of Cape Town, we seemed to drive for miles and miles and miles through desperate areas of extreme poverty, small tin shacks and lean-tos .  It was deeply disturbing to all of us, every one of us asking ourselves when will it end? But our spirits were about to be lifted by “Mickey”. For almost four years now, Mickey has been running a soup kitchen inside a tiny tin shack in the middle of a depressed area of Khayelitsha. 





“Even though it is small”, says Mickey,” at least I know that people are eating here.” For breakfast, Mickey provides sour porridge – mealie meal soaked overnight .  She feeds about 60 children in the morning before school.  Then at lunch time she prepares a wider variety – today it is “samp” (thick maize – like hominy grits to look at), and mealie meal as well as lentil soup with vegetables.  She goes to schools or wherever she can to get leftovers or foodstuffs and now feeds about 185 people per day.  Mickey says she has learned a lot from Mamelani on how to handle people, how to organize her soup kitchen  and she has learned a lot about health and wellness from them – how to handle those who are sick, education on HIV/AIDS, other diseases and diet.

Mickey and Mamelani have gone to Social Services for help but there is none.  They have been given some funding from Operation Hunger for food, for a community garden and for the soup kitchen.  They have begun a Soil for Life garden. Now they only operate the soup kitchen 3 days a week (before it was 5) but at least they are able to keep that going.  They have 4 staff and volunteers from both the primary and secondary schools to help them run the program .

Mickey insisted that we squeeze into her tiny soup kitchen to see what she was cooking in her huge pots.  There was barely any room to move with so many people waiting patiently for a serving of her deliciously smelling food.  We felt the warmth in that little tin shack – not just because the soup pot was boiling but because Mickey exudes a pride and commitment to the people of Khayelitsha that is unique.


We reluctantly got back in the bus to continue our journey through Khayelitsha  to see the work of another  of these women at Mamelani – the Health Champions.  Next stop was a small community centre where several young women were ready for us as soon as we arrived.  Yet another of the Champions is working with a group of young women to encourage them to dance traditional dance and drumming.  We watched these beautiful young women run through several routines of dance and theatre as well as drumming. 

After the wonderful performances, we walked behind the centre with one of the coordinators.  She took us to the very tiny Women’s Shelter at the back which can house 2 families in a pinch.  There are 4 beds set aside for abused women. Gender based violence is a huge issue in South Africa as well as the issue of rape.  

No comments:

Post a Comment