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Published: August 25th 2015
One of my main objectives in South Africa is to understand more about the country. Lindsey's uncle, Paul, agreed to take us to visit NGOs he knows in the townships of Khayelitsha and Delft. Khayelitsha
Khayelitsha is a Xhosa word meaning "new home". The township, a response to the Group Areas Act, was meant to keep Black people out of White areas of Cape Town. People were forcibly resettled to this area which is essentially a huge sand dune with little agricultural potential and limited building capacity. Wikipedia suggests Khayelitsha is both the biggest and fastest growing township in South Africa. If true, then the official statistics from the 2011 census are woefully out of date.
Those statistics make bleak reading. They suggest a population density of around 7500 people per square kilometre, three times that of London. Of the 350,000 people registered in Khayelitsha, 70%!l(MISSING)ive in "informal housing"... what we would call shacks. I saw a house advertised on the internet - a 1 bedroom "family house" with unfinished bathroom: R120,000 (£6000). One third of residents walk more than 200m to access fresh water. 80%!o(MISSING)f houses are connected to the electricity grid and
the other main fuels are gas and paraffin (used a lot for cooking). The median income of the people of Khayelitsha is around R20,000 (£1000) per annum. 20% work as domestic workers, or maids, as we would call them in the UK. In terms of education... 11% of adults didn't finish their primary education. 65% do not have their Matriculation Certificate (the school leaver's qualification, broadly somewhere between GCSE and A-levels). Only 5% of Khayelitshans have a higher qualification. Possibly the most horrifying statistic was that 89% of the people of Khayelitsha are moderately or severely food insecure: only 1 in 10 people are confident they will eat tonight.
Khayelitsha is served by several train stations as well as the new MyCiti buses and the ubiquitous South African taxis. The main roads are good but smaller roads are basically dirt paths. There are multiple police stations and clinics and a hospital was built in 2012. Home Affairs appears to have a brand new office (hopefully better than the Wynberg facility). Looking around, it is obvious a lot has been done to enhance the area. Paul told us a couple of shopping centres had opened recently. Khayelitsha has two newspapers
and it's own radio station. Life is improving here, though from a very low baseline.
I saw a lot of people going about their daily lives - with the same needs and desires we all have. Various shops, providing food, mobile phone repairs, hair cuts, etc, were housed in disused shipping containers. I saw a butcher's stall under a bridge, a table piled high with chicken carcasses. There was a large braai-shack (that's a BBQ restaurant) with meat sizzling away, the smell was really tempting. The people, dressed in bright colours, were wrapped as warmly as they could afford to be against the wind which blew eddies of dust across the streets. All around was noise, it was incredible... people shouting, taxis honking their horns, the radio blaring out. Overhead, the clouds were looming, a storm was brewing. I can only imagine how miserable people must get when it rains.
I don't want to paint a picture of only doom and gloom. Khayelitsha is a bustling place full of people trying to carve out their own life in their own distinctive way. Despite their circumstances people generally seemed quite happy. Children played in the streets, laughing and joking
together. The residents are proud of their homes and their accomplishments. There is ambition and entrepreneurship; people are making an effort to better themselves. Khayelitshans hold their heads up high. Most have phones and radios; many homes have satellite dishes, some even have cars.
The last thing I saw as we left Khayelitsha was a barracks for a division of the South African Army. This is a sad reminder of the township's tragic history and the fear of an uprising prior to the end of apartheid. The barracks still serves as a symbol of control and a deterrent to protest. Learn to Earn
Whilst in Khayelitsha, Paul took us to Learn To Earn, an NGO he used to work with which helps people to learn a trade, such as carpentry, secretarial skills or sewing and also the skills to develop a business. The students pay a nominal fee for the course. This is a huge commitment for some of them but only covers a small percentage of the cost of the course. We met some amazing people, both teachers and students. The teachers had such a passion for helping their students to learn. Many of
them had previously graduated from the courses. The students had such great character and a determination to improve their lives. I have been to similar schemes inflicted upon people, some of whom didn't want to work, by the UK Government. It was interesting to see the similarities and differences. The main difference I could see was that all of them wanted to be there and knew they needed to be there to improve their lives. It gave a positive vibe to the whole enterprise.
After we had seen the lessons, we went downstairs for lunch in the cafe. This is one of Learn To Earn's success stories: the owner graduated from one of their courses and they helped to provide the equipment for her business. She now employs several local people and is turning out delicious food. The cafe would not be out of place in a British city.
After a lunch of stuffed chicken and rice we went to see the rest of the organisation. This was the more business side - they produce high quality hand-sewn bags of many different designs. They have developed some good contracts with major organisations and provide bags mainly for marketing.
The proceeds from these sales help to meet the cost of running the courses. Delft
We left Khayelitsha and drove across the Cape Flats to Delft. Delft was an experimental township designed to house both Black and Coloured people. In many ways it is very similar to Khayelitsha but it feels different too. Whereas it felt life was getting better in Khayelitsha, in Delft there was less hope and more desperation. The people were more hunched over and seemed less optimistic about the future. Many of the buildings appeared to be more flimsy.
In 2011 the population of Delft was about 150,000 people, with a density of 14,000 people per square kilometre - twice that of Khayelitsha. Of these only 27%!h(MISSING)ave graduated from high school. The unemployment rate is 41%! (MISSING)Generally Delft has more mature housing than Khayelitsha, the number of people in formal dwellings is 82%!,(MISSING) more than twice as many homes have piped water and a higher percentage have toilets. Despite this, 28%!o(MISSING)f Delfites can't heat their homes.
The main roads and many of the side streets are paved but there is more of a covering of sand and dust.
When the wind rises the eddies can be quite abrasive. The range of businesses were similar to those in Khayelitsha, especially corner shops and hair salons in containers. What stood out to me most in Delft were the big solid looking stone-built churches. There seemed to be a lot less in terms of shopping facilities, for example I didn't see any shopping malls or a hospital. The only clinic I saw was in a large tent. Bettaway Church
We got lost on the way to the next NGO. Paul drove down a lane and knocked on a door but got no reply. It turned out we were on a street with the same name but on the other side of Delft. Eventually Paul made contact with Clive, the pastor we were there to see, and he met us at the side of a road.
Clive was a large man with an even bigger personality and a drive and determination to match. He is the pastor of Bettaway Church, a very poor community in Delft. He has set up a homework club to give children the space needed to do their homework and to support them
in doing so. He is actively encouraging the congregation in educating their children from the pulpit. He is also an activist who will sort out any problems he hears about at school.
Clive opened the church and inside were a dozen children sitting at little desks quietly working. The space was dark and not conducive to concentration but it was better than their homes. Just this inadequate facility could make a huge difference to the attainment of these children.
Clive led us through the church to a tiny kitchen, almost completely occupied by two Black ladies. One of the ladies was frying an egg for a child who had just arrived. The other was stirring soup in a huge pan - this impoverished church had set themselves up to deliver soup to 1800 people per week in five locations. You wouldn't believe the kitchen could serve so many people.
We went into another couple of buildings where further classes could be held. In one was a recently started remedial class. The other building was a converted shipping container which Clive informed us housed 70 children each Sunday for their Sunday school, it seemed to barely fit the visitors.
Clive told us that the two public libraries in Delft had 10 computers each. Bettaway has provided two computers for their fifty two children to use and also a broadband connection. They are trying to provide everything necessary to give their children the education they need to transform their futures. Clive is also trying to ensure that the children don't go straight into work when they gain their Matric Certificates but instead that they have the option of getting further qualifications.
It is amazing what Bettaway church is doing with the extremely limited resources they have. The church also has really ambitious plans to expand - they are about to start a building project to quadruple their space. They don't yet have the funding and it will be a huge amount for the church to raise. They are stepping out in faith with their hands held open before God.
We left the church feeling extremely humbled by what was being done with such limited resources And with a real sense of how God can use people in the right place to really transform lives. We were extremely tired by the end of our visits but our heads were buzzing with everything we'd seen.
I don't want to make a habit of this but if you have read this and feel you would like to donate to the excellent work of Bettaway then please do get in touch and I can get some details to you.
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