Posts Tagged ‘community’

Without a doubt, a lack of access to information remains a serious problem in rural and marginalised communities. This is because it affects people’s ability to claim their rights and it is a barrier to access to opportunity, amongst many more negative attributes that go along with it.

 

As part of our efforts to raise awareness about this community initiative we have going in Rooigrond, we started dabbling in ICTs, which we found to be a powerful tool in many ways. This started us thinking about mobile phones and the possibilities they hold- particularly with the issue of access to information-, as even the most basic of phones lately are WAP enabled. However, not being very ‘tech-savvy’ ourselves, we had all these ideas and questions, but were unable to discuss them and get any direction on which path to take. This changed however upon our meeting David Bernard, CEO of SANGONeT- an organisation aimed at empowering non-profits through the ICTs, at the North-West University.

 After listening to Mr. Bernard’s presentation on the potential role social media can play in non-profits, amongst many other uses of technology in communities such as ours. We finally were given a chance to share our thoughts on the matter, especially our concerns about the lack of information in the North-West province, which have prevented organisations and communities from exploiting the potential of ICTs. Having shared our views and finally having our many questions answered enabled us to really get going on our plans of enabling the community to access information; which has the potential to assist not only in allowing residents to claim their rights, but also to develop themselves and the community as a whole.

We have since been on a learning journey, in an effort to seek out ways to fully maximise the manner in which we utilise ICTs for the better of the Rooigrond Informal Settlement. Though not always easy, there is no doubt that progress has been made in many ways, with some great tales coming from residents about the difference that has been made due to the opportunity to access information. We have also discovered great innovation within the community, as people share their own ideas on ways in which the ICTs can be used. No doubt that it is a journey we will see through…

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“May 15 is celebrated as the International Day of the Family. This day highlights the importance of families. It aims at fostering equality, bringing about a fuller sharing of domestic responsibilities and employment opportunities. The programmes undertaken to commemorate the day, work towards supporting families in the discharge of their functions. They tend to promote the inherent strengths of families, including their great capacity of self-reliance, and stimulate self-sustaining activities.

Family constitutes the basic unit of society. Hence, the widest possible protection and assistance should be accorded to families so that they fully assume their responsibilities within the community to the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Declaration on Social Progress and Developments and the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against women”

However, within the context of many marginalised communities such as Rooigrond, ‘family’ goes beyond its’ usual mother, father and children definition. Due to the large number of single-parent families; child-headed families; migration to seek access to opportunity; family refers more to the community as a whole; as the community looks out for each others well-being. So, in celebrating the International Day of the Family, we decided to celebrate it with the community as a whole and with activities that empower each member of it.

The day was celebrated on Saturday, the 21st May 2011, to ensure that the majority of the community could participate in what turned out to be a great day of fun and empowerment for all in Rooigrond. The Department of Home Affairs, SASSA and SAPS once more assisted us greatly in ensuring that members of our community could apply for IDs, birth certificates and social grants, all things which are greatly difficult to access for those in marginalised communities. The Department of Health, on the other hand, provided HCT services, giving those in the community- which has neither a clinic nor hospital, an opportunity to know their status. Apart from this, health talks were conducted between different little groups amongst the crowd. These health talks were done in Setswana to ensure that community members could understand and focused on matters which are problem areas within the Rooigrond context. FAMSA and the Department of Social Development, along with the Department of Correctional Services were also a part of the day’s activities each discussing the services they offer, as well as having presentations on matters which tear families or in our instance, communities apart. Topics included domestic violence, substance abuse and the consequences of crime, amongst many more. To ensure the day appealed to all, both young and old alike, great performances came from our very own cultural dancers too- with the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture offering fun, games and exercise to all present.

What a day it was and it only served to bring together the community in a beautiful way, as men, women, old and young came out to celebrate this very important day with each other…

Operation: ROOIGROND does more than facilitate positive change in the Rooigrond Informal Settlement, we are also advocates of social justice for this often forgotten community. We seek not only to break the cycle of poverty in the community, but also to break the cycle of social exclusion- which plays a huge part in the many injustices suffered by the community members.

As such, we were quick to accept a request from the Commission for Gender Equality to form a partnership for the hosting of a public hearing on women, poverty and energy, in the Rooigrond Informal Settlement area. After the successful hosting of our ‘Human Rights Day’ event, the Commission found us to be in an ideal position to successfully co-ordinate a public hearing on their behalf.

Our acceptance of this request, was based entirely on the knowledge that, the community itself is fully aware of the challenges it faces, with regards to women, poverty and energy and as such, they themselves also have ideas on how these challenges can be overcome. Unfortunately, due to the social exclusion suffered by the community, never have they ever had a chance to share their views and actively participate in the overcoming of these challenges.

On the 29th March 2011, over 100 community members were mobilised, to participate in what would be a historic occasion in the settlement. The community members were joined by, members of the Commission for Gender Equality; the North-West University and the Department of Health, amongst others. Vibrant and necessary discourse about the various challenges faced by women due to poverty and a lack of energy followed. The community identified their problems and also proposed solutions to these problems, citing the various means that could be used to assist them solve these problems.

The Public Hearing, which was ended with a late lunch courtesy of the Commission for Gender Equality, was a huge success- not only because an environment encouraging participation was created, but also the psychological benefits of having a socially excluded community having their voices heard.

“Working together, ordinary people can perform extraordinary feats…”~ Unknown

On the 6th of January 2011, the community of the Rooigrond Informal Settlement once more united and for our Project: Clean-up.

The roads used by learners to go to school are filled with bushes and trees which make the area unsafe for them, as they can’t be seen, when walking through there. To combat this, we mobilised the community for what we call, Project: Clean-up. This project would ensure that the bushes, trees and everything else considered to be hazardous would be cleaned up.

The entire community assisted with this and entire families came out in their numbers. Women, children and men all played their part and so much was done. The local school, Madiba Combined School, was also cleaned up.

Parents came in their numbers and the school yard, toilets and classrooms, were also cleaned as part of Project: Clean-up. The entire project was a great success due to the unified effort of the community. Once more, they showed the power of unity and the safety of our children was the reward.

Rising Above Circumstances

Posted: March 22, 2011 in General
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The Rooigrond Informal Settlement in which our operations run is 17kms away from the nearest town, Mafikeng. It has no clinic, police station and even a need as basic as water is a problem. The entire settlement has only two Engine run water pumps, meaning that some are forced to go long distances for water.

However, despite all the difficulties and hardships faced by the community, they are active participants in the move for positive change. Volunteers gladly assist with the collection of the water required to cook for our Daily Feeding Program and often assist our team with the cleaning of the centre. The hope they have within, despite the circumstances they face on a daily basis, is enough inspiration to overcome challenges we meet daily. This community, with their hopes, dreams and willingness to be empowered embody everything we stand for- overcoming.

They truly live up to our motto, “Together, we can overcome…”

“No one can lead our lives for us. We are responsible for our actions. So people -especially the younger generation- need to be very careful especially where safe sex is concerned.”~ Salman Ahmad

The HIV/AIDS rate in the Rooigrond Informal Settlement area is very alarming and has had an impact that reaches beyond the infected’s family. The community has a large number of child-headed homes and some family’s have overcrowded their shacks due to taking in their relatives children- the children who get left behind. This deadly phenomenon is perpetuated by ignorance about the disease and years of wrong learning.

Amongst the youth, particularly the males, one often the old excuse that one “can’t eat a sweet with a wrapper on”, in reference to condoms. It’s taken as a sign of cowardice to use them- a sign of unmanliness. This plus the a long list of sex-related myths, only serves to perpetuate the problems this cycle of careless about sex has brought. Young males need to be taught that, there’s nothing manly about digging your own grave.

With their female counterparts, however, the reasons more commonly given for a lack of condom usage are more often than not, “he doesn’t like them”; “he’ll leave me” and “I love him”. It’s of utmost importance that we teach our young ladies that sex isn’t a tool to be used to keep a man, especially unsafe sex. Is it worth your life to prove to another how much you love them?

It is with this in mind, that we decided to seek out partnerships that would assist in the eradication of this problem. Southern Cross Capacitating Corporation, was quick to respond to our calls and provided HIV/AIDS and Lifeskills training (over a period of 5 days) to thirty youths. It was very interactive, informative and dispelled many of the sex-related myths within the community. On the 5th day, the participants of the training were assessed and on the 20th November 2010, a ‘graduation ceremony’ was hosted in the Rooigrond Informal Settlement. The training participants, who all passed the assessment, received certificates during this beautiful event.

The sense of achievement this brought to the youth, has been very beautiful to witness. This coupled with their keenness to share the knowledge they gained with others, has had quite an positive impact on the youth as a whole. More evidence that indeed, “together, we can overcome…”

“Free the child’s potential, and you will transform him into the world.”~Maria Montessori

At Operation: ROOIGROND, we believe in the use of education and empowerment as a means of creating positive change. In April 2010, after seeing the potential in the children of the Rooigrond Informal Settlement, the idea of establishing an Early Learning Centre came about.

The Early Learning Centre would seek to nourish that potential in the children and would also aim to develop their self-determination from a young age, in an effort to ensure that they know and believe that their circumstances do not have to dictate what they become. However, bringing this idea to life wouldn’t be easy. Many thought it an over-ambitious dream and shot it down, we never gave up on the belief that it would happen and each day, whilst stepping through the village and seeing the little children, the belief we had in what we were doing just kept growing.

In May 2010, whilst discussing the plan with a local farmer’s wife, our belief and faith was vindicated. Her husband who happened to overhear our topic of discussion offered to buy building equipment so that an Early Learning Centre could be built. From that moment forth, blessing after blessing poured forth and through partnerships formed with others, the Rooigrond Early Learning Centre was built by the community.

On Monday, the 6th September 2010, the Rooigrond Early Learning Centre opened its doors to 30 learners from the Informal Settlement. It was welcomed with great joy and goes beyond educating the children of the community. The Rooigrond Early Learning Centre has become a symbol of hope to the community, a symbol of how faith coupled with hard work can make things happen…