Community Foundations are emerging as one of the more successful new development models – leading to a shift that says development should be driven BY a community and not done FOR a community from the outside.  We at the GRCF have always believed that change has to happen from within in order to have maximum impact and sustainability. Recently Jenny Hodgson and Barry Knight, from the Global Fund for Community Foundations, have published an excellent paper on the subject.  With their permission we have uploaded it to our blog so that you too can download it.  Community foundations are on the rise and hopefully this signifies a worldwide trend that shows that real development needs to start at the grass-roots level.

Click on the link to download: ‘More Than The Poor Cousin? The emergence of community foundations as a new development paradigm’


Please click the link below to download our October Newsletter (or email to be put on the e-mailing list). It’s going to be a busy month this month – especially since we are celebrating our 10th Year Anniversary on October 29!

GRCF October Newsletter

ABCD training venue in Freedom Park.

Arriving in Freedom Park, an informal settlement just outside of Rustenburg, one notices many things. Compared to the predominantly rural settlements and villages in which we usually work — where despite severe poverty, the surroundings are often rich in natural beauty — Freedom Park is many things, but not many would call it beautiful.  Located on land used for mining, the shacks are arranged haphazardly between mining shafts, quarries and other industrial structures which cast the area with industrial starkness and pollution. The roads that are not used for mining transport are poor even for dirt roads, and are littered with millions of pieces of broken glass. Trash is everywhere and collects in large piles and spreads throughout the streets, enjoyed at least by the dozens of goats who are happy to call it lunch.

Instead of everyone being from the same place and a strong sense of family, many of the almost 200,000 inhabitants in the area are from all over South Africa and even from other African countries.  It is decidedly a colder, urban feel.  Yet, as always, life goes on.  Little food stands and businesses are everywhere and as we drive in, a lady in a ‘hair salon’ about 1 cubic meter in size looks up at us from where she is busy braiding her customer’s hair.  People will always find a way to survive – we just want to help give them hope that there can be more to life than only surviving.

Day 1 - starting to shift mindsets

On the first day of ABCD training we pulled up in a trail of dust and set up shop in the local shebeen (tavern) owned by businessman Willem Nel.  We do not often run training sessions in taverns but in this area it is one of the safest and most comfortable places to be. As we waited for the participants to filter in for the first session, we noticed that there was a poor turnout and only a few had arrived almost an hour after we were supposed to start. Asking around, we received an explanation – that morning 5 locals had been killed in the area and people were scared.  After spreading some reassurance we eventually got a good turn out however, although we started a bit late.  The events of that morning had made it clear that this was definitely going to be a bit different from the other ABCD training sessions we had done so far.  There would be new challenges in this more urban context, but we knew we would adapt as always.

Freedom Park

The rest of the first day’s sessions went well, as did the day after with the newly added trust and self-discovery exercises.  However, it was clear that the participants were at very different levels in terms of education and ability and also many did not speak English nor any of the other South Africa languages well as they were from neighbouring African countries.  We partially resolved some of these problems by grouping the individuals according to their abilities and spending more time on the basics with some while helping the others complete more advanced activities. This seemed to work well.

The final two days also went well, though it was clear that we could only use a very simple version of the Leaky Bucket economic tool.  Mapping out the community in terms of assets also showed us the differences between this and other communities.  There was land available, but likely not for farming

ABCD participant, Clifford, shows where he plans to put his vendor rental business

activities, and the overcrowding and crime would also cause more risks to new ventures. One battle we had to fight was also the participants’ general disillusionment with development organizations, since due to the proximity to the mines the group had undergone a lot of interventions, many of which were not carried out properly or done only by the big corporations to ‘save face’.  Promises were made and not kept too many times.  Getting this community to trust us will be a little harder than other places, but as always we are determined to help them grow and become drivers of their own development process. We may have to work with some on a more individual level but we are sure that good things will come from the ABCD.  As the workshop proceeded we could sadly see that a few participants tuned out, having seen too much failure and hardship and likely needing more than just a 4 day workshop.  For some others however, the lights in their eyes started to shine again — especially when we talked with them one on one.

As a community organization with limited resources, we know we cannot reach everyone, though we always try.  Even though the hurdles are larger in Freedom Park than some of our other work areas, we will not give up.   The people of Freedom Park, regardless of where they come from, are a part of our community now which makes us responsible for them and them for us.  If we can help even one person get a successful business or social project off the ground there, we will feel as if we have made a first step to helping Freedom Park create a better future for itself, and will make the Greater Rustenburg region a that much better place to live.

UNISA recently printed a great article on LACAP (GRCF supported inmate-driven reform project) and their Women’s Day event in their Focus magazine.  Click on the link below to download the publication. The LACAP story is on page 12.

Focus August

GRCF September Newsletter

Click the link above for our latest newsletter! Feel free to share it with those who might be interested. Happy Friday everyone!

Bushveld in North West Province is threatened by alien plant species

You may recall our Ke Rona project which started a few months ago thanks to the generous donation made by the National Lottery.  The first phase concentrated on putting local performers on official World Cup stages and was a huge success – empowering our communities, as well as allowing local artists to gain experience and exposure. Now however, we are ready to take the next steps!

Environmental phase set to begin

The environmental phase of Ke Rona is focused on removing alien vegetation from Bojanala.  Many alien species demand much more water than the local vegetation and are often better at getting it.  This means that some of these species have started to out-compete the local plant life and are changing the face of the bushveld. This is dangerous as it artificially threatens the natural balance of the ecosystem, leading to extinction of local plant and animal life.  During the alien plant removal process the GRCF will not only help preserve the natural environment, we will also be creating jobs – both through those employed to remove the vegetation as well as those who will be empowered to make furniture and crafts from the alien plants.  We will be aided by UNISA’s Geography Department as well as the Department of Agriculture on this project. It is all part of the holistic approach to socio-economic development that GRCF so strongly believes in, and we are excited to get started!

Song competition soon to be launched

Also part of the Ke Rona project is a continuation of the arts and culture portion that was started during the World Cup.  As a result of the interest and feedback we received for our performers we will soon be launching a song competition for local artists. We will be compiling the top songs into a CD and will have a wonderful prize for the top artists.  We hope this will bring further recognition to some of the incredibly talented artists in the Rustenburg region. More details coming soon!

Abandoned buildings could be used as assets, but legal issues have to be dealt with first.

Last week we had another follow-up in the Kgetleng region, in the informal settlement of Reagile, just outside of Koster.  Compared to some of our other ABCD communities, Reagile is quite far along.  There were many formal organizations and projects in place even before we did the ABCD intervention, but ABCD helped generate new projects in addition to helping the existing ones develop their strategies and leverage their assets better.  We had also suggested to community members that they should group themselves along their working areas in order to be able to support each other as well as make it easier for us to provide additional training and support, which they have now done, in addition to creating a community forum.

All in all, 25 individuals showed up to the meeting, and they indicated that there were even more people actively involved but for simplicity had sent them as representatives.  The number of active projects and community members is the highest of any of our ABCD communities – which is partly due to the size of Reagile being bigger than many of our other communities, but also to the support and charisma of the Community Development Worker and other community leaders in the town.

The community members have indicated that they had had a few issues with their dealings with the municipality, as well as some land disputes, but apart from that they were progressing well and felt that the ABCD and subsequent workshops had helped them focus and try to do as much as they could from within the community rather than trying to go outside to get help. They could still use legal assistance however, as well as the help of the government on some matters. We are hoping this will happen soon.

Some of the projects we visited were even more inspiring when one considers the lack of outside support. At one home based care facility, the workers had stopped getting government stipends and care kits and had mobilized their own funds to take care of their patients, whose numbers are growing.  Despite the fact that they have little money and little formal training, they are motivated to do all they can for the people that they are taking care of.  They do not complain, but simply make the best of a bad situation and are grateful for organizations such as the GRCF, who can come and give their support — even if it’s sometimes only a sympathetic ear and a heartfelt thank you for all the good work they are doing.

Reagile and the ABCD group that is active there is a great example of how many setbacks a community can endure and yet keep going and persevering. The GRCF is with you Reagile! We will be going back shortly for further interventions and to make sure all the hard work the community has put in does not go unseen and unheard.

Click below to download our August newsletter:

GRCF August Newsletter

LACAP members make moving confessions and apologies for their crimes.

On Monday August 9th, while most South Africans were still busy enjoying their long weekend, the GRCF staff found themselves on the way to prison once again.  It was Women’s Day and LACAP members – all inmates in Losperfontein Maximum who have committed to change and now spend their time trying to fight crime, poverty and gangsterism from within prison walls – had planned an event meant to increase awareness of crimes against women as well as attempt to make some sort of amends to women that had already been victims of such crimes.

The day was emotional above all else, and featured moving testimonies from both victims and perpetrators.  The three main inmate speeches came from LACAP members: Tumelo, who was sentenced to 22 years for killing his daughter; Ivan, who had a history of anger issues and was sentenced to life for having killed his wife; and Justice who had been convicted of serial rape.  While each crime is a terrible one and each of the 3 inmates now profoundly and deeply regret what they have done, they know they cannot take back their crimes and are trying to make some sort of amends through apologizing, confessing, making others aware and giving back to the community.  Each of the three cried as they testified and the honesty was startling.  Ivan admitted he had also wanted to kill himself after killing his wife, but had not had the courage. It took the help of fellow inmates for him to deal with his anger issues in order for him reach a more positive place from which he can now try to help others. For Justice, the emotion welled up when he spoke of his mother and said that he wanted to apologize especially to her as she had not raised him to be a rapist but now had to bear the burden of being a rapist’s mother.

Throughout the emotional day the LACAP members and other inmates all supported each other and the camaraderie was clearly

LACAP honours the women that help them most.

visible.  It was difficult at times to remember that these men had committed such heinous crimes as they are so courteous, friendly and genuine.  The vast majority seem gentle as well, though much of this has now come about through counselling, workshops and a lot of time to reflect.  In between the speeches there were plenty of artists and singers who also brought inspirational messages and entertainment and made the entire day a little lighter.

In attendance were many different NGOs, businesses, government representatives, community members and students, and the prison courtyard where events are normally held was completely filled with people.  We were surprised to even see the brother of deceased artist Lucky Dube, Richard, in attendance. Efforts were made to recognize the extraordinary efforts of women in fighting crime and supporting correctional reform and GRCF’s own COO Christine Delport as well as Maletlotlo Nyenye made moving speeches.  For most in attendance the event was hugely eye-opening.  To see victims and perpetrators standing side by side, displaying the courage of both apologizing and forgiving was one of the finest examples of the unlimited potential for love that we humans are capable of.

Also heartening was the abundance of support and interest in the Halfway House project that LACAP is trying so hard to get off the ground.  If we can just help them get land and funding, we are sure that it will be a huge success and will go a long way to helping reformed inmates constructively re-integrate into society and stay out of trouble.

Losper Maximum's bodybuilders carry messages highlighting women's issues.

Sometimes inspiration comes from the most unlikely of places. We are continually inspired by the LACAP members and their deep determination to set right what they had done in the past. We are also inspired by the multitudes of people that work in prisons to ensure that reform does happen and that needed help is received for positive change. We are most inspired however by the ability of victims, including some of GRCF’s own staff, to understand, forgive and open their hearts to helping those that may have hurt them in the past.