We sat round a little table in a room at the back of a church. Each person around the table took turns to read the article they wrote , a task set in the last meeting of the group. This was a meeting of the Community Monitors group that met every two weeks over 3 months. The group observed what they saw and experienced in their community and presented their observations in short articles. The articles would be posted on the groups blog site in communitymonitors.net
Thabo talked about the polluted spruit ( a small stream) that flowed through the community carrying industrial waste from the factories up stream, picking up household waste as it winded across to the other end of the community. But this little stream, when it rained heavily, became a dangerous river. We remember the day when we saw the bodies of three little boys lying on the side of the spruit, they drowned while crossing a badly built bridge.
Sandile , reported on his visit to Marikana. Marikana? No , not Marikana in Rustenburg where 34 mine workers were shot by police recently. But why Marikana , the other asked. This was an informal settlement where people without homes built shacks to live in. Because Marikana ,he explained was a place of death. Their houses were built on the side of cemetery where recently heavy rains unearthed bodies form their graves and strew them around on grounds where they have now built their houses.. Marikana was a place of death where they lived.
The next piece of writing was on unemployment. The reader was a young person who just completed school but was now unemployed. His account was a a story of a family of nine squashed into just two rooms surviving on no money. The father was taken by alcohol and at night he returned to abuse the mother and traumatise the children.
There was silence in the room as he read about what he observed how the family broke apart. The pain of the family spread in the room. A young women participant broke down as she attempted a comment. She left the room, she did not want others to hear her sob. The story stayed over us. There was no analysis no plan of action. There was simply the story that unemployment was destroying families in the community.
KK a young women who earlier told us of her dream to become an airline stewardess, stood up with her sheaf of papers. This story is about me , she wrote, it is about how I fell pregnant when I was just a teen and saw my life crash around me. The group had only just recovered from the sad story of the
family of nine and was not ready to take on KK’s personal tragedy. But her story was not one of failure and loss. Yes I tried to abort my child she said but it was too late. Today I want to tell other young girls to take care of their lives. But I also want to tell those who fell pregnant, you must be proud of yourself, You have brought another life into the world. I want to tell them never to give up on their dreams. KK assured others that she will become an airline stewardess one day soon.
This lifted the group and there was animated discussion. Girls must be strong, we need to set up a girls writing group, girls never accept the judgment of failure, and where are the boys.
We ended the session, a bit sad but excited about the power of our writings. Each participant talked about the next topic they would write on. I look forward to the next sitting of the Community Monitors group.