By Cele Esau, lay leader for social justice at Cape Town Unitarians
On Wed, July 6th, a small delegation of interfaith leaders from SAFCEI’s Faith and Eco-Justice project went for a site visit to a project in the Khayelitsha community of Solomon Mahlangu headed by our colleague Pastor Mazwi Ndikolo. The delegation consisted of myself, Cele Esau, together with Rev. Berry Behr, Princess Zelda Ann Hintsa and Abraham Maritz.
As an Eco-Justice advocate, my intention was not only to learn from what activities were being done there but to also share some of my experiences.
We met in one of the community halls, a prefab structure, where we would learn that the Friends of Risen Life ran a daily Feeding Scheme for the community. They were being sponsored by Ladles of love, an NGO that has been assisting with various feeding schemes across the city. They had also planted a food garden to contribute to food security in the unemployed community, but the food garden was destroyed by contaminated flood water from overflowing drains.
We entered into discussions of what the Friends of Risen Life volunteers felt concerned about and how we could support their efforts to achieve food security.
Rev. Berry gave a talk on what SAFCEI does and stands for. I tried to encourage those present to change their perspective from focusing on what they don’t have to appreciating and using what they do have, and Zelda spoke about opportunities. Abraham went about holding space for us and being a very soothing presence. We learned later on the drive home how passionate he is about looking after the earth and how hard he works on his own community garden.
Some of the issues raised by the 37 Solomon Mahlangu community members included Crime in the area, flooding on the roads and unemployment/ joblessness. Some of the approaches discussed were to:
- Let people know that volunteering was open to all and that perhaps the community would be less inclined to allow crimes to take place if they were invested in the project.
- See how flooding was impacting the gardening and that perhaps we could look into ways of preparing for the flooding instead of just responding to it and that the SAFCEI website may have resources listed that could help. Enriching the sandy soil to help plant growth and prevent erosion was discussed, as well as the problem of drains blocked by waste.
- Address the issues of unemployment by changing our perspectives and realising that being involved in the project was a job but also it could be used as leverage to run additional upskilling workshops.
We then shared a meal, having conversations and making friends. This time together felt vital to building community. I would definitely recommend that these visits continue to other sites as it is a mutually beneficial endeavour.
I feel grateful to have been a part of this event.