Skip to main content

working with winnie

As some of you might know,  I moved to Cape Town to start a job. That job is as a "research & documentation officer" with an organization called Shack/Slum Dwellers International, a global network of organized urban poor communities working to improve their quality of living through savings, enumerations, mapping, upgrading and partnerships. So, my daily routine can include anything from writing blog posts for our blog, to last minute trips to Africa, Asia and Latin America, to minute-taking at a marathon week of meetings with donors and government ministers, to visiting with community members in the various informal settlements across Cape Town, to rearranging our entire website, to... site visits with Winnie Madikizela Mandela. Yesterday was one of the latter. One of the South African community leaders, Patrick Magebhula Hunsley, serves on a Ministerial Task Team headed by Ms. Mandela. The Team came into being in response to the Makhaza toilet scandal a while back, and was tasked with addressing the issue of open-air, incomplete and dilapidated toilets in poor communities across South Africa. By January 2012, the team is meant to report back to the Department of Human Settlements' Minister Sexwale on the scale and geographic spread of the problem, as well as any "irregularities or malpractices," of which I for one am quite sure there are many.

Yesterday, Ms. Mandela was in Cape Town to meet with members of the South African SDI alliance around their approach to upgrading of urban informal settlements, particularly as it relates to the provision of basic services such as water and sanitation. After hearing about the alliance's successes in re-blocking and upgrading at Sheffield Road, Ms. Mandela was eager to visit the community. She spent nearly two hours there, meeting with women who have mobilized to turn what was not long ago a maze of dark alleyways with few safe or functioning toilets nearby into a vibrant community working together to bring about permanent change.

Needless to say, it's quite something to have the privilege of witnessing these kinds of exchanges, and be paid to document them. All against the backdrop of Table Mountain, the roaring Atlantic and the African sun.


Popular posts from this blog

Coming Home.

Two years ago I got divorced. I did it with my head held high. After starting my marriage off with an affair I decided to change my life. I entered recovery and lived out the next 6 years sober & faithful, the best wife I could be. But we grew apart, and less than a year after our daughter was born, we split up. Then I fell in love again. I forgot what it felt like to be head over heels in love with someone, and quite honestly it knocked me off my feet. I really thought that God had finally answered all my prayers - I thought I had finally gotten what I wanted - the dream come true. 
Just about eight months ago, my boyfriend came clean after months of relapsing that I did not know about. I felt broken like I really don’t think I have ever felt before, and the healing has been slow and painful. There is no doubt that we are both doing the work, but it is hard. 
It occurred to me recently that much of the pain his relapse has brought up for me is old pain. It shouldn’t be a surprise,…

to struggle gives strength.

"We must recognise that under duress great things are born. Diamonds form in molten stone. The sweetest flowers of man's spirit have most often been watered by tears. To struggle gives strength, to endure breeds a greater capacity for endurance. We must not run away from our heartbreaks in life; we must go through them, however fiery they may be, and bring with us out of the fire a stronger character, a deeper reliance on ourselves and on the Creator Who, like a good Parent, chastizes us because He loves us and because He knows what can be made out of us and that the pain is worth the prize that can be won. Love, hate, passion, fear, sorrow, pain -they act on us and spur us on, they develop our qualities and give us colour and individuality. Why should we want to shun and abolish some of the factors that bring out the best in us, that temper our steel, that teach us to value happiness at its true worth? Can a man who has never been hungry in all his life know what a piece of …

A message from Clarissa Pinkola Estes

My friends, do not lose heart. We were made for these times. I have heard from so many recently who are deeply and properly bewildered. They are concerned about the state of affairs in our world now. Ours is a time of almost daily astonishment and often righteous rage over the latest degradations of what matters most to civilized, visionary people.

You are right in your assessments. The lustre and hubris some have aspired to while endorsing acts so heinous against children, elders, everyday people, the poor, the unguarded, the helpless, is breathtaking. Yet, I urge you, ask you, gentle you, to please not spend your spirit dry by bewailing these difficult times. Especially do not lose hope. Most particularly because, the fact is that we were made for these times. Yes. For years, we have been learning, practicing, been in training for and just waiting to meet on this exact plain of engagement.

I grew up on the Great Lakes and recognize a seaworthy vessel when I see one. Regarding awakene…