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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.


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!

“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