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Notes from South Africa - Brownyn Douman

Brownyn and other volunteers wearing ponchos preparing to spendthe day in Mandela Square painting shacks

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Notes from South Africa - Brownyn Douman


Our cohort in Cape Town from the Graduate School-Newark visited the informal settlement in Hout Bay, Imizamo Yethu. We joined in on the Heart and Soul Foundation's Khusela Ikhaya Project to #PaintItForward and challenged other community organizations and institutions to do the same! 

(Imizamo Yethu was the site of the devastating fire in March which tore through 3,500 homes, affecting 15,000 people. The settlement in Hout Bay is where hundreds of make-shift shacks were erected by the City of Cape Town to serve as a temporary relocation area.)


We spent our day in Mandela Square painting shacks in vibrant colors with a paint that reduces the risk of shack fires in an effort to #StopShackFires. 


After lunch, we got to interact with members of the community and even try out a local delicacy! (Chicken feet covered in barbeque spice and sauce. It was surprisingly more appetizing than I



I met two young women, Amanda Nyonjane (23) who was born in this township and Philiswa Pama (28) who moved there in 2004. Their courageous stories of hope and resilience truly inspired me. Even though they had lost everything in the fire, they were hopeful for their futures and have aspirations of owning their own businesses and uplifting their families. Amanda was only able to save her I.D. and books in the fire, but had to forgo clothes and furniture. Their family escaped with their lives, but had to watch as their home of 27 years burnt to ashes with all their belongings in it. 


Now they are living in temporary shack housing again, as they continue to wait for an RDP brick house. However, Amanda is determined to help provide for her family by selling ‘braaied’ chicken feet and wings for R1 each, a local favorite, she has a flow of customers. 


It has been an enriching and humbling experience for me. I was able to meet the people who were affected by this fire, listen to their personal stories and even share a laugh with them. They could easily be disheartened by a harrowing experience such as this, but instead they are more tenacious than ever! They are happy to know that there are people like us who care and want to help them. What they don't realize is that it's been a rewarding experience for us as well. 

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