Choices ranged from a day trip to the winelands, a tour to Cape Point, a cooking tour, a cycle tour of the city and even a visit to a nearby Big 5 game reserve, but, one of the choices caught my attention as something unique that I wouldn’t have the opportunity to do very often, if ever….
A cultural tour of Cape Town – with the opportunity to encounter township communities at a grassroots level, to gain insight into the life and history of South Africa and to explore the social issues that the people living in my very own home town face on a daily basis.
As a born and bred Capetonian I’m the first to admit that I don’t venture into the townships of my city… I have been conditioned to view this as unwise and unsafe, but this was my chance.
I was excited to be allowed the opportunity to visit these areas accompanied by a local and with the view to find out about the amazing community development organisations and inspiring people that are truly making a difference, despite their circumstances.
Bright and early one Friday morning I headed off to meet my guide for the day, Xolani, who proved to be an engaging and entertaining commentator on everything from living through the post-Apartheid years in South Africa to Donald Trump and American politics… just for the benefit of the Americans in our party!
Our first stop was in Langa… and I would by lying if I said my heart didn’t skip a beat when we took the turn off and entered the oldest township in SA… But as I was to discover as the day went on, I had nothing to worry about, I was in expert local hands with Xolani who knew where we were going and who we were meeting at every step along the way. His confidence and easy manner lead me to feel completely at ease, even when driving well off the highway into the “depths” of Khayelitsha later in the morning!
The first community project on our itinerary was Up for All, a coding academy for youth in Langa. This amazing project was created only 1 year ago by ex-con Sihle, who spent 11 years in prison where he dreamt up this idea! His dream is to teach the youth of Langa various coding languages and so far the program has already created jobs for 10 people with the concept being rolled out to other areas.
I loved seeing the dedicated students, all studying at their own pace using headsets and donated computers, in a small classroom and even under the trees outside. And Sihle was such an inspiring person to meet, it is amazing how one man, who was living a life of crime, has managed to turn not only his own life around but made a massive impact in his community. I left feeling positive that there are people like him making this country better every day.
Our next stop was Ikhaya Garden in Khayelitsha Site C where we met Xolisa. This urban farmer has created a garden in the heart of the township and located next to a school in possibly the sandiest patch of ground…
Xolisa is passionate about gardening (and poetry too apparently according to one of my Instagram followers who spotted him and shared his secret!) and has even travelled overseas to learn various techniques for his urban agricultural programme. His aim is to”make gardening cool” for kids and he encourages kids from the neighbouring school to pop past often where he introduces them to the concept of where food actually comes from and how they too can grow their own – in the heart of the township!
Next it was time to visit Home from Home preschool in Harare, Khayelitsha, who offer home based care for orphans affected by HIV / AIDS.
Obviously a visit to a children’s home is filled with emotions… the joy upon our arrival, when we were greeted with big hugs and broad smiles, was followed by something a little bit more sobering when we realised the desolate sand swept playground they spend their days in – nothing compared to my kids lush green garden and swimming pool that’s for sure! Yet despite the reality check this, is still a happy space… a wall lined with a library of books made up of generous donations, jungle gyms and swings, hula hoops and toys, a bright classroom filled with art, even a mini computer lab for the older kids of the community to utilise for school projects. The reality of this visit was good for me, I just wish I could have brought my own kids who were fascinated by my photos…. next time!
Next we headed off to eKhaya eKasi at Makhaza in Khayelitsha an art and education centre providing literacy, skills development, health programs and small business development where we met Nondy and her friends Veliswa, Bulelwa, Nwabisa all beading up a storm, creating beautiful craftworks to sell in their small shop…
eKhaya eKasi means ‘home in the hood’ in isiXhosa and this is a non-profit Art & Education Centre, home to The heART of a Woman Program in Cape Town, it is as a multi-purpose community centre in a residential and is run and staffed by women living in the townships, serving over 400 local residents.
The following activities, programs and working space for the community are catered for at the centre:
- An Arts and crafts program – beadwork, silk screening
- The heART of a Woman Project (thoawSA), a mobile photography, social media & computer skills program
- After School Children’s Program
- Arts & Crafts
- Health & health education (HIV/AIDS)
- Burial Society
- Meals on Wheels
- Rooftop Garden
Ou final stop for the morning was Masibathande Senior Citizens in Action at White House in Khayelitsha we were privileged to meet a group of very joyful senior citizen women at the Seniors Community program.
This was to prove to be the perfect way to end my morning… as we got to know more about some of the most undervalued individuals of modern society – the aged!
We all introduced ourselves (with us Westerners trying to remember all their very Xhosa surnames) and the “gogos” asked us each all manner of personal questions. “How old are you?”, “Are you married?”, “What work do you do?”, “Do you have children?”
The facilitator Thembi reminded us about how very important this process actually is for these matriachs who have lived through the harsh years of Apartheid first hand and still carry many scars. In fact many of these women would never have spoken to white people prior to these sessions and don’t really know much about them at all, hence the questions which are so helpful for them to gain a frame of reference and allow them to move past their prior fears of white people in general. For me as a child of the latter years of Apartheid this was a sobering thought and I was so grateful for this opportunity…
After getting to know each other, it was time for some dancing and singing of course… followed by plenty of hugs and handshakes as we parted ways. What a special group of ladies. And even more special was the dedicated volunteer, Thembi, who facilitates these sessions in 3 locations across the townships of Cape Town. She was a shining light!
And then my morning came to an end… I left feeling uplifted and positive about the amazing work that is being done by ordinary people eager to make a difference. Such inspiring people putting their skills and time on the line to help their communities, often for very little financial gain for themselves.
In many ways I left feeling woefully inadequate as a South African who has barely scratched the surface of my country – in visiting these townships I was awakened to so many things, that I couldn’t help but feel changed for the better and keen to get involved and play my own small part…
The idea of the Cape Town Cultural Tour is for visitors to the city to experience an authentic educational experience with a local non-profit and fair trade NGO.
This is a township tour with a difference… not just a drive through an underprivileged area to observe township society but rather a chance to visit a variety of community projects involved across various sectors, such as social work, education, housing, health, sustainable economic development, reconciliation and human rights development, environmental & green projects.
This responsible tourism initiative is a social awareness trip that takes a non-invasive approach while also providing a direct financial boost to the local economy by including a donation to all of the projects visited in the rate.
Contact Jenman Safaris
United Kingdom: 0871 284 5010
USA & Canada Toll Free: 1888 219 8162
Australia Toll Free: 1800 140 835
Images: Kathryn Rossiter
Disclosure: 1 – I was invited to enjoy this tour by Jenman Safaris, however all views expressed and photos are my own