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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.

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Rustenburg Fifa Fan Fest on World Cup opening day.

What a weekend! The opening of the FIFA World Cup created a sensation across the country as Fan Fests and stadiums filled with soccer fans from around the world to welcome the Cup to African soil for the first time.  GRCF staff were a part of the festivities from behind the scenes making sure that our Ke Rona groups got on to the official Fan stages smoothly.  We still found time to support South Africa in the opening match however, and the excitement was contagious. We will continue to bring you pictures and video coverage of our Ke Rona groups and other community activities around the World Cup over the next month.  We are seeing the benefits already!

One of the Ke Rona groups get ready for performing on Fan Fest stage.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has”
– Margaret Mead

The Asset Based Community Driven (ABCD) approach to development espouses the belief that communities can take the lead in identifying their own problems and the solutions to those same problems. Put simply, the approach argues that little is achieved by identifying needs and rather the emphasis should be on the assets in any given community. While the needs based approach tends to prescribe solutions by creating agencies that deliver services to clients, the ABCD approach focuses on empowering citizens.  One of the basic theses of ABCD is that over reliance on services creates a dependency culture which limits people’s potential and ability to exercise control over their lives. One of the key difficulties within the community development sector today is that many service driven institutions espouse community involvement but somehow still manage to engage the community on their terms only. For example they may manage their relationship with the community by setting funding criteria that focus on their own needs and not necessarily on those of the community. For organizations that truly wish to engage in community participation they must step back and enable the community to decide what the priorities are.

The Greater Rustenburg Community Foundation together with the Coady International Institute at St Francis Xavier University in Canada, the world research leader in community driven development, have formulated a practical Community Asset Mapping Programme (CAMP) approach of combining ABCD with the notion of Philanthropy of Community (PoC) or horizontal philanthropy to facilitate development in the community.  PoC is an approach to grantmaking and community interventions that acknowledges the fact that there are assets in communities, that people do share and help one another and that communities do have the ability to find solutions to their own problems as identified by them. Development agencies and grantmakers play a facilitating role in community development while the community themselves take the lead role in driving their own development, thus truly becoming empowered.

Happy New Decade everyone! The year 2010 promises to be a very exciting one around the world, and especially for South Africa.  With the upcoming World Cup taking place here, the whole country is buzzing with excitement and possibility.  We here at the Greater Rustenburg Community Foundation (GRCF) – located in Rustenburg city in the mining region of Bojanala, South Africa – see this as a unique opportunity to push the field of innovative grass roots development forward and ensure that this country begins the new decade with big strides towards an eradication of poverty and a betterment of life for all.  We hope you will join us on this wonderful journey as we report on some of our most exciting activities in community driven development. We believe that development in the community, for the community and by the community maximizes impact, buy-in, and sustainability of projects, leading to drastic long-term positive changes that ripple out to neighbouring regions.

For more information on how you can contribute or get involved please contact Christine Delport at christine@grcf.co.za.