Monday, February 11, 2013

Our Building Project

We are working in an informal settlement, building a community center.  Formal settlements are areas set up by the government.  During the apartheid years, people were evicted from their homes and moved there.  Formal settlements have more permanent structures. Informal settlements are areas where people take over and build shanties, made mostly of pieces of corrugated tin and plywood.

Our informal settlement is located in the Lavender Hill township, and is called Village Heights. There is a spigot that the community uses for water.  Projects Abroad added the infrastructure to our building site and created the only flush toilet in the settlement.

Formal settlement West Lake

Lavender Hill/Village Heights (informal settlement)

Our specific project is to build a community center, which will serve as a safe place for abused women and children.  It is attached to the day care building that was also a Projects Abroad accomplishment.  We have been learning how to build using sandbags and cement, which will result in a very solid building.

Our housemate Matteo (UK/Italy) , at the work site
The city of Cape Town has been very involved in the progress of our project.   It has invested in a community garden, and is in the process of installing play equipment for the children.  Projects Abroad will be showcasing the site in the summer of 2014 as part of the World Design Capital 2014 process.

We get lots of help on our project from the children who attend Day Care on the site.  We spend a good portion of our time with the children ages 1 to 5.  Every day, we are entertained by a chorus of songs while we work.  One song is "I love you, you love me, we are a happy family."  Another is The Butterfly Song, which the children act out by flapping their arms and floating, then swooping to the ground.  The kids love to get high fives, fist bumps, rides above our heads and participation in various ball games.

The children at the day care center


  1. I always think of the novel 'A Dry White Season' by Andre Brink whenever I think back to the apartheid years and see the deep, deep scars that are still all over the townships and settlements everywhere -- outside Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth, Cape Town... If you've not read it before, it's a fabulous book -- it gave me so much of an appreciation of the culture from which ZA came when I first travelled there as a teenager...

  2. Thanks for the great suggestion! I am so impressed by the resiliency of South Africans. Truly amazing people. I will leave here a changed person.

  3. Sarah, It's truly amazing the difference you're making. So proud of you both. Good luck and take care!

  4. Tina, maybe some day we could do a project like this together! Thanks for the well wishes. We are having a great time!