2005, 10 years after
democratic elections, unemployment, poor housing, child
malnutrition and disease continue to prevail with alcohol abuse and
domestic violence prevalent and communities still separated
by cultural, economic, historic and language divides.
‘The Truth and
Reconciliation Commission had taught us that reconciliation is
never cheap, never easy and remains a constant challenge.
Reconciliation will always remain the responsibility of the
entire nation. The process will not be complete until all South
Africans who benefited from apartheid confront the reality of
the past, accept the uncomfortable truth of complicity, give
practical remorse and commit themselves to a way of life which
accepts and offers dignity of humanness.’ (Alex Boraine)
In 2005, after years of
driving past Masiphumelele, occasionally driving in to drop off
my domestic helper or gardener, I started working in
Masiphumelele as a physiotherapist with the task of establishing a
centre for disabled children.
We were doing home visits and
meeting the mothers of disabled children in a tiny back room of
an existing crèche to give the families support and advice and
issuing assistive devices for the children. For the first time,
I experienced directly the huge physical needs in this community
and the vibrant spirit the people possess. I was addicted.
The crèche, whose back room
we were using, had 60 ‘able bodied’ children being fed and kept
safe but no activities or stimulation were offered. These were
the children of the woman who cleaned my house and my friend’s
Each time I would walk to our
back room to work with the disabled children, I would walk past
rooms of able-bodied children sitting along the walls of the
rooms quietly doing nothing. It felt to me that the children
where taught to have no initiative. I could not work diligently
and patiently teaching children to walk, if the children who
could walk, had nothing to do. The next time I went, I brought
boxes of toys and carpets from my home only to find that when I
returned a week later all the toys had disappeared. The help had
to be a different sort of help. I needed to understand more
deeply to respond appropriately.
When sharing my experience at
the crèche with my friends I was surprised by their remarks
i.e.: ’What can I do? I want to help too’.
One morning, I woke up with the idea of Work for Love in my
mind. It was an idea to make a difference, a way to shape our
future. If we all did a little bit we could allow love to
flourish between our communities without much effort.
The inner need to help seemed
to live in my community and I was the one asked to respond to
that need. Closer integration of Masiphumelele into the
relatively affluent local communities would enhance the lives of
all in the area and hopefully shift some old and stuck
I presented the idea of Work
for Love to the parent body and the teachers of my daughters’
school: the Imhoff Waldorf Community School in Kommetjie and it
was immediately integrated into the life of the school as the
Imhoff Waldorf School Outreach Programme. The response from the
parents was overwhelming.
Volunteers started going to
the crèche. We organised tables and chairs for the children and
did activities: painting, play-dough, puzzles and ring time
action songs. We brought fruit for snack time. We made obstacle
courses and combined the abled and disabled children in movement
groups. We organised funding for the renovation of the building
and new play structures were put up.
At the same time we started
the Wellness Morning at the Pink House where a yoga teacher, a
homoeopath and a massage therapist started to volunteer. In a
matter of weeks we had 10 therapists offering sessions.
In the 2005 December holidays
we ran a children’s holiday programme which included
storytelling, marimba music, dance and craft. Leora’s youth
dance group performed at the Noordhoek Common Christmas Fair.
Tanith and Luvuyo produced a poetry and art booklet with the
children at the Ukhanyo Primary School. We started a sponsorship
programme for teacher trainers and school students. We are
training people in the Healing Art of Massage and to become
fieldworkers. We employ receptionists and translators.
From the outset Work for Love
has had its own momentum and challenges and it is growing and
growing. We are learning to ride the wave.
by Nicola Nangle