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Our final newsletter of 2010 gives a summary of the past year and a glimpse of the way forward! Click below to download.

GRCF DECEMBER 2010 Newsletter


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.

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.

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.

Ke Rona dancers perform at UNISA countdown event (copyright: UNISA Department of Geography)

With only days to go until the start of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the entire country is buzzing with excitement and anticipation and the GRCF offices are no exception.  Since Rustenburg is one of the host cities where several big games will be played, the entire community is working hard to make sure everything comes together and that the visitors we receive leave happy.  For us at GRCF, the most important thing is that the community receives enduring benefits.

Our Ke Rona project, whose main focus is to put local and rural talent onto official Fan Park stages and to help them get international exposure, is particularly busy at the moment with rehearsals, costume fittings and scheduling.  The groups we are helping represent a wide spectrum of our community and include traditional Tswana and Zulu dancers, brass bands, Afrikaans rock bands, DJs, and gumboot dancers to name just a few.  We took great care to find the best artists in our community who have had the least access to the resources and opportunities that would help them succeed.  We are helping these groups get the equipment they need and acting as liaisons with the local officials to make sure they get to perform right alongside the biggest and best known international and national performers. From their performances at countdown events, some of our groups are already getting offers to perform elsewhere.  The exposure and training they will get from this experience will ensure that they have the highest possible chance for success after the World Cup is over.

GRCF staff show their support for Bafana Bafana

We at the GRCF are proud of our community – both for its wealth of talent as well as the hard work and dedication from all parties that has gone into making sure the events around the World Cup are a great success. We are confident that all of our visitors will have a wonderful time and that the benefit to the Greater Rustenburg region will be invaluable in the long term.

We are ever grateful for this opportunity to show the world what our community, and South Africa as a whole, can do!

Ke nako South Africa!

When many people think of South Africa’s history, it is not often that a pretty picture comes to mind. However, while it’s true there are many horrors in South Africa’s past, one must never forget the amazing abundance of rich cultural heritage that also exists here. This heritage is what gives this country such a colourful confluence of variety and complexity and makes it a place that one wants to return to again, and again.  Just ask our communications manager, Lana, who came to the country for a 3 month internship with a Canadian organization, The Townships Project, and is now staying for (at least) two years at the GRCF.

Art, music, song, dance, literature, cuisine – can be found in all the diverse South African communities, each with their own distinct flavour.  As time goes on however, some of these communities are in danger of losing this rich cultural diversity in favour of the globalizing force of a world that is increasingly homogenizing countries and continents.  Of course equality is important and definitely something to strive for, especially in South Africa, but we must also be careful not to lose the differences that make us unique and which add to the wonderful tapestry of South African identity.

It is from just such a passion for preserving South African culture and promoting it to the world that came the idea for the ‘Ke Rona!’ (‘It’s Us!’ in Setswana) project.  Managed by Elliot Ndlovu – a very accomplished singer, musician and performer dedicated to the preservation and promotion of traditional South African performing arts – the Ke Rona project is focused on taking local talent, especially in the form of song and dance troupes, from rural areas in the Bojanala region and putting them on World Cup Fan stages and in cultural evenings in lodges. This project, which is generously supported by the National Lottery, aims to ensure that the benefits from the 2010 World Cup are felt in the poorest rural communities and that these benefits are sustained long after the event has passed.  The project therefore aims to find long term solutions for rural artists who can benefit from participating in the World Cup festivities by gaining in confidence, learning about how the business works and signing deals, and gaining local and international exposure.  At the same time, we can show the world the beauty of South African culture and preserve it for generations to come.  We wish to thank the National Lottery for their generous contribution to this important and timely project and wish our artists the best of success!

Representatives from the Coady, GRCF, and Comart discuss ABCD

Representatives from the Coady and GRCF discuss ABCD.

With last week’s conference in Pretoria now behind us, the GRCF is happy to report that the event was a very successful one with a lot of useful information exchanged and engaging dialogue stimulated.  It was great to see representatives from varying backgrounds — inlucding the non-profit, government and private sectors — interacting with the aim of real constructive cross-sector solutions to poverty in South Africa.  We wish to thank UNISA for hosting this event, co-hosted by the Coady Institute and GRCF.  Below is a summary of the conference from the UNISA website.

Geography – the human element

Can rural communities in South Africa better themselves without large sums of money? The answer is “yes” and the Mathopestat community in the North West province is proof thereof.

Using the theme “Back to the ABCDs: creating an enabling environment for sustainable socioeconomic development at grassroots level through community driven initiatives” as a basis, the story of Mathopestat was shared this week at a symposium held by the Department of Geography in the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences (CAES).

ABCD is an Asset Based Community Driven (ABCD) approach to development. It espouses the belief that communities

Melanie Nicolau of UNISA chairs the ABCD session.

can take the lead in identifying their own problems and the solutions to those same problems. ABCD is community based development, based on the principle that each community already has a tremendous number of assets and, if properly accessed and channelled, will ensure success in sustainable development.

The Mathopestat community has been selected as the pilot project of the ABCD approach in South Africa. While Unisa began their involvement with the project in February this year, the project was initiated in October 2009 by the Greater Rustenburg Community Foundation (GRCF), a pioneering grassroots grant maker in South Africa which has supported the activities of community based organisations across Rustenburg. Unisa’s Department of Geography joined forces with the GRCF as part of their community engagement initiative.

Mathopestat community members at the conference.

The ABCD approach was introduced to the GRCF after the Chairman of its Board, Sebastian Mathews, attended a workshop at the Coady International Institute at the St Xavier University in Canada. The Coady Institute is one of the world research leaders in community driven development, conducting action research pilots across the world and two large-scale pilots in Africa, specifically Ethiopia and Kenya.

Intrigued by the possibility of using this approach in Rustenburg, the GRCF knew that ABCD would be a natural fit and therefore adapted the approach for the North West context to change the way of thinking so that communities can begin intentionally looking at their assets first. In six months, as a result of ABCD, the Mathopestat community has realised the many assets and potential they have to better themselves.

In her opening address, Dr Maggi Linington, Executive Dean of the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, said the theme of the symposium was close to Unisa and the college, as it coincided with the university’s vision to be the African university in the service of humanity. She said Unisa chose not to be a university that was viewed as an ivory tower, but rather one that was relevant and responded to the needs of society. She also indicated that environmental sciences were very important in ensuring sustainability in communities and the environment itself.

Chair of the Geography Department, Melanie Nicolau, said it was an honour for Unisa’s Geography Department to

Candles are lit for women living with HIV/Aids.

partner with the Coady Institute and the GRCF to work with the Mathopestat community. She said the symposium marked the launch of a very exciting community engagement project for the Department of Geography, and they hoped the project would grow in strength and ensure that their work as academics in the discipline of Geography is relevant to the communities they live in.

The symposium comprised four sessions. Session one introduced the fundamentals of ABCD. Gord Cunningham and Dr Alison Mathie from the Coady Institute – who have been instrumental in developing the Institute’s ABCD area – illustrated how conventional approaches to community development have inadvertently undermined people’s capacity to take action. The session then centred on the premise of focusing on assets and helping people to recognise the skills, strengths and resources they could use to take action and transform the way in which they interact with others. There were also examples of cases from the around the world, as well as Kenya and Ethiopia, where citizen-led or community driven developments have had a significant impact. Cunningham also commended Unisa on the wonderful work they have done in collaboration with the GRCF.

There is not a dry eye in the house as Sanah finishes her moving story.

Session two focused on building community capital. It was argued that aid is dead and that it has made the poor poorer and growth slower. However, aid remains a centrepiece of today’s development policies and one of the “biggest ideas of our time”. Although aid might be dead, it is only as dead as the community spirit and capital where it is dumped. Building community capital from the inside out sets the stage for effective aid to come alive. The session was concluded with an HIV/Aids candle lighting ceremony honouring those who, despite their disease, remain active drivers in the development of their communities’ assets. Some of the speakers in this session included Christine Delport, COO of GRCF; Sana Nhlapo a Mathopestat community member; and David Martin, a board member of the COMART Foundation in Canada.

Session three discussed strategic corporate social investment and the business case for real community development initiatives. Session four centred on micro franchising and examined how it can enhance the fight against poverty.

Mathews thanked Unisa and stressed how wonderful Unisa staff are. He said it was amazing to see academics work hand-in-hand with the community and gave the example of Melanie Nicolau working in the gardens in Mathopestat. “This is truly a proudly South African institution. The technical and intellectual capacity of the Department of Geography has been very impressive, but more so than that what has really struck us it how forward thinking and visionary they are as a Department.” He also said as a result of the partnership, there would be higher quality action research to inform policy makers and practitioners about what actually works, for the betterment of South Africans.

Unisa 2010

Download a copy of the opening address by Dr. MJ Linington: Opening address – ABCD Symposium

Members of LACAP

Most people rarely get to spend a morning with convicted murderers, rapists, and other serious criminals – let alone ones that are really striving to make a positive difference by apologizing and trying to atone for their deeds whilst incarcerated under the harsh conditions of a South African prison.  Last week some of the GRCF staff got to spend just such a morning however, as we were invited to hear about a project some members of the maximum security correctional center in Losperfontein (Brits) had started.

In August of 2008 a young man named Sedumedi Augustinus Radibe realized that his life had effectively been ruined due to his commission of several criminal acts that had landed him in prison.  He had caved in to peer pressure and circumstance and had made a series of bad choices that he now deeply regretted and wished he could do something about.  Sedumedi also realized that like him, many of the youth outside of prison are a part of environments that make it really easy to make those bad choices, especially when they do not really understand the consequences of a life of crime. If the youth could just be shown the realities of this life, perhaps they would be less likely to commit crimes themselves, he thought.  Sedumedi decided that although he was now in prison, this did not mean that he could not do something good for society and thus the Losperfontein Anti-Crime Awareness Project (LACAP) was born.

Crafts Made by the Prisoners

In talking to his fellow inmates, Sedumedi soon found that there were others who were similarly remorseful but who felt they had few options.  Marshalling them together, along with prison staff and community workers, there was soon a good group of people dedicated to moving LACAP forward.

The main purpose of LACAP is to raise anti-crime awareness by taking part in campaigns and by inviting youth to come to prison and see the consequences of crime first hand.  In addition to this however, LACAP is trying to give the prisoners other options than just hardening themselves further, by helping them make various crafts and giving them a chance to do something positive.  LACAP hopes they can sell these items in order to build a new school for Losperfontein Primary – which they have adopted and sent uniforms and shoes to already.  In the future LACAP also hopes they can get enough funding to start a halfway house and help prisoners who get out of prison actually have a real shot at a new life away from crime, rather than giving them few options but to reoffend as is the case now.

LACAP banner

All in all, it was an illuminating morning and GRCF will soon go back for a full day business planning session as we think this project has a lot of promise and potential in the fight against crime.  As the prisoners each told their stories of how they had ended up in jail, we all became aware of how easily that could have been any one of us had we been exposed to those life circumstances.  Despite this, the choices were still the inmates’ own and they know that circumstance and peer pressure do not excuse their actions. Nor will it reduce their sentences.  They also realize however, that this does not mean they cannot still change their lives and do some good even from behind prison walls. The LACAP members are now trying to do that in the best way they can – by trying to save others from following the same paths that had led them to where they are now.