Last week I introduced you to Zama Zama informal settlement outside South Africa’s capital, Pretoria, and something of the work a group of friends is doing there.
Zama Zama is one of a thousand places just like it in South Africa: an “insignificant” mass of people thrown together in a trivial place, which has slipped between the cracks of the national narrative. I don’t have exact details about how my friends – a party of privileged, ordinary people from the well-off side of society – became involved in this project. Really, it’s like it always is, I suppose: a chance meeting here, an opportunity there.
The group was already working in a preschool “Little Bears” on that side of town – doing occupational therapy with the children mostly – when one of them heard about the need in Zama Zama from a doctor-friend. Their aim has always been to go in, start something, equip the community to continue with the work, and then to move on. They were, fortuitously, just in that “moving-on” position at Little Bears when they heard about Zama.
It would take a novel to adequately describe the whole story; for the sake of your sanity, I will condense it to two paragraphs.
Some years back, seeing the lack of care and facilities for children in Zama Zama, a young woman and her husband who lived there, took the initiative to start an informal childcare facility at their home. They bathed and fed the kids daily, and Florence just did what she could, with limited knowledge in child care. For many of these children, whose parents would leave before dawn to work in the city, this was the only food they would get all week. Her husband subsequently died, and she was just not coping on her own, when the Little Bears group joined her.
Once a week they drive out to the huddle of shacks, play with the children, teach them about sanitation and good health, feed them, do art and other therapeutic activities – all the while training women in the community to continue once they leave. They would be the first to say that they want no recognition for what they do – the reward is in the going, doing, loving and seeing the children, and the community as a whole, thrive. With their help, though, the children at Zama Zama now have access to fresh water, a rudimentary playground, and big dreams of an actual preschool with classrooms, so that they don’t need to do everything outside under the hot sun and in the rain.
Here, at the infancy of the project, are some photos. I’d love to compare them in a year or two’s time.
(Click on images for the slideshow.)