The latest news from the field.
I trust all is well with you. Please find a brief summary on the progress of SADRA Conflict Transformation’s work as well as personal news from me and family.
My dream has come true, that of attending SPI (Summer Peacebuilding Institute) in Virginia, USA. It is every peacebuilders dream. I leave Cape Town on Friday, 5 May and am back on Sunday 8, July 2017. During this trip, I plan to visit Mennonite churches who supported my work from the beginning and take time to appreciate them. Please pray for me and pray for my family back here in Strand as well as SADRA staff: Noncedo, Dan and Kathryn.
In terms of programs, SADRA continued to work in multiple projects in Peacebuilding and Interventions during the March and April 2017 months. here are some of those highlights
1) Umyezo wama Apile High School Intervention in Grabouw. In the last issue, I shared about the beginnings of this community conflict facilitation process which was started at the request of the Departments of Education (WCED) and Transport and Public Works (DTPW). Whilst the conflict is far from being resolved, an agreement was reached, after many meetings with community stakeholders. The agreement provided a way forward to start building the High school, which had been delayed by this protracted conflict for months. On 1 March 2017, the Contractor started building. Engagements continue and conflict dynamics are forever changing in this small Apple village. Continue to pray for this process and pray for the facilitators: Oscar Siwali and Yolanda Jacobs
2) #FMF: Currently, SADRA and More than Peace continues to engage Universities, looking for lasting solutions to not only #FMF but a range of challenges that face our institutions of higher learning. The challenges are far from over and behind the scenes work and analysis is happening to create preventative measures. All being well, capacity building should start soon. Please pray for this work.
3) The three Manenberg High Schools: Silverstream, Manenberg and Phoenix attended the 4day Peer Mediation training workshop on 31 March - 3 April 2017 at the La Bri in Franschoek. A total of 47 people attended, including 37 learners, leaders and facilitators. On the last day of the workshop, Ms. Marine Bernabéu of the French Consulate in Cape Town was in attendance. She later expressed her appreciation of SADRA’s work. The learners have already conducted two mediations in Manenberg, one at home and one at school. Please pray for these young mediators that they grow and be peacebuilders in Manenberg. These Peer mediators will be presented with certificates at the Alliance Francaise sometime in May. Let me know if interested to attend.
4) We also had the privilege of visiting Embassies in Pretoria. We visited the German, French, Australian, Canadian, and British High Commission Embassies. The warm reception and recognition for SADRAs work from all these partners was encouraging. Please pray for these relationships.
5) Finally. the Lwandle, Nomzamo and Asanda Village Community Structures Conflict management workshop under the banner of SANCO (SA National Civic Organisation) was also conducted. Our guest from the Cape Town French Embassy, Ms Bernabau attended the workshop with 30 Community Leaders representing a range of stakeholders, as well as women, youth, and community leaders. The workshop took place on 21 and 22 April 2017 at the Lwandle Community hall in Strand, This workshop was also attended by staff from the following NGOs: Desmond Tutu Centre, Mothers to Mothers and Yabonga. The follow up workshop is on mediation & conflict transformation planned for 25 to 27 August.
I would like to express my sincere gratitude for what you are doing for me and SADRA. Your generosity of heart and spirit has not gone unnoticed. Please pray for the upcoming projects, especially looking at our community peacebuilding work and where South Africa finds itself.
April 2017 marked the opening of our Peer Mediators Program for the three secondary schools of Manenberg (Phoenix, Manenberg, and Silverstream). After a year of consulting, meeting learners and other preparation, the program got underway with a 4-day training held at the beautiful La Bri Olive Farm and Holiday Venue in Franschhoek.
This innovative program brings learners together from the three schools for the purposes of cross-community learning, relationship-building, and support as mediation begins. They have similar issues related to gang violence that spill onto the campuses. SADRA’s program gives them a foundational understanding of the nature of conflict as well as empowering them with practical skills and confidence for resolving conflicts at school non-violently.
Prior to coming together, some learners were nervous to meet those from other schools. Overcoming this barrier and providing them with a way to build relationships in a safe space was important. By the end of the second day, attitudes were changing – crossed arms gave way to hugs and laughter; school boundaries evaporated.
Our goal was to have 15 from each school, even in gender, and learners young enough to help with the continuation of the program. We ended up with 37: 30% boys, 70% girls, with 57% of the participants coming from Silverstream. Two-thirds of the learners speak Afrikaans at home, and most are from a Muslim background. Parents were thrilled we were taking their youth out of Manenberg, or in the words of a single mother, “I am so grateful you are taking my only son to safety for at least four days. I was distraught I have to work shifts this weekend, but now I'm so thankful for you.”
Each day included many hours devoted to understanding conflict and the skills needed for non-violent conflict resolution, such as active listening, paraphrasing and mediation. These skills were practised in numerous role play scenarios of situations familiar to them from school or family, and they practiced in every role. Group games were used for recreation, team-building and learning, and daily activities broke up the lessons.
A big hit was the mosaic craft project by volunteers from Douglas Jones Mosaics in Cape Town, who also donated all materials. The youth were shown how to make mosaic art on panels and pots using glass or ceramic tiles. Some of these projects were spectacular, and many presents for mothers and schools were made. The calming effect of the project allowed for deep conversations - sitting with a table of young women, I heard each one tell a story of losing an immediate family member to a painful, premature death – all shared while patiently gluing tiles as we sat elbow to elbow.
While this farm was only an hour from their suburb of Cape Town, these youth had never been out this far, or in such open space, and were at first both fidgety and uncomfortable. After getting through first day squabbles about dorm beds and hidden cigarettes, we got them moving. There were daily elective activities including a 7km hike to the reservoir, a tour of the olive farm, sports (soccer and netball) and more mosaics. We watched them breathe deeper, and stand tall, literally.
“What’s that smell?” The youth I was walking with through a wooded area asked with crumpled noses. “The smell of decaying leaves - where I used to live we have this smell most of the year.” Eyes wide, they poked at rocks, admired flowers and colours, and jumped at imaginary snakes for the first time.
But the biggest transformations came from working with the material. Nearly half the learners started our workshop saying conflict is a negative thing and trying to avoid it at all costs. Then they learned how to analyse it, how to speak to it, how to contribute positively to resolve it, and their excitement was tangible. Shy girls found their voices; bossy girls learned to give others space. In exit evaluations, a quarter of the learners voluntarily mentioned having gained selfconfidence; one third of the boys specifically said they learned how to communicate and listen.
On the final day it was very exciting to
witness their enthusiasm and ability to implement mediation. All of them left believing they
can use Peer Mediation and help others resolve conflicts.
These Silverstream Secondary School girls gave quote-worthy statements summing up their experience of the training.
Zanele Kolo: “It [this workshop] has put so much change in my life now I am able to solve conflicts that are happening and I’m now starting to believe in myself.”
Shenay Botman: “I will walk with the key of a problem solver.”
We continue to meet with the youth weekly until they are ready to mediate on their own, and expect to certify them by the end of May.