Scene 4: Profiling the Mtshini Wam Community Leaders, 12.3.12-12.7.12


Cape Town’s Project Centre has historically been creative in the methods of capturing the social interaction in their project sites.  We wanted to capture some of the personalities we had the opportunity to work with in Mtshini Wam while we had the chance on site.  Through profiling the leaders in the settlement, we filmed twelve personalities from all around South Africa working collaboratively to make a difference for their families and neighbors.  The goal in getting their stories was that it might help us understand how the reblocking process happened to a deeper extent.  What we were not necessarily expecting from this venture was the amount of welcome feeling, open communication, and improvements beyond the physical reblocking scene we would receive from the community leaders.

Summary of Scene Below

  • Team leaders all willing to readily share their stories
  • Informative process on why people move here and why they push for Mtshini Wam improvements
  • Asked core questions about personalities, contributions to Mtshini Wam, and visions for future of Mtshini Wam and other reblocking processes
  • Learned about some of the greater impacts in Mtshini Wam’s reblocking: social cohesion, community as a family, and the safety found within the settlement


Cast of Characters

WPI:  Rachel, Sarah, Adam

Community: the leadership board, team leaders, and supervisors from the reblocking project (12 in total)



Since the beginning of our time in Mtshini Wam, the leadership was hoping that we could document their story through the forms of a poster and a pamphlet.  We did not truly understand how we could write what had not been covered or said prior to our visit, but we agreed that it would happen before we were to depart in December.  As time passed through our six weeks of reblocking improvements and community developments, a relationship formed where personal information could be shared to both parties.  In this regard, an opportunity opened up this past week for us to profile each team leader and supervisor in the reblocking project.  This helped us fulfill our promise for the poster and pamphlet, and would also bring a sense of pride to the community who has worked from a bottom-up approach to improve their lives.

Each interview consisted of about ten questions, covering topics such as name, age, family, background story, community role and responsibilities, and advice for future reblocking processes.  None of the leaders minded being filmed by our FlipCam for the profiling, but to ensure privacy rights were reserved, all questions were read prior to recording to ensure that the interviewees were comfortable.  The sessions each lasted about fifteen minutes in the community office, and every leader was very open about their thoughts and ideas.  We learned some of the commonalities of the leaders through the profiles, most of them regarding managerial responsibilities, hopes for increased improvements following reblocking, and the feelings of improved safety within the Mtshini Wam and family feeling derived from living in Mtshini Wam.  We took this information and wrapped it into the pamphlet, which also covers the story of Mtshini Wam’s fight for reblocking, as well as a timeframe of events leading to service provision.

As the poster and pamphlet are now in their wrap-up stages, it is important for us to realize the impact that the community has had on our lives.  In summary, we have been exposed to a unique opportunity to help improve the standard of living for about 500 people in an informal settlement.  Within this broad statement, though, we have learned extensively about the complex human dynamics, personal negotiations, relationship formation, and learning curves associated with multi-partner endeavors.  Being thanked by each partner at the conclusion of our work with them, including those we profiled in the community, means that our efforts on site have not been without appreciation and value.

Plans, Ideas, and Challenges

Bringing in the poster and community pamphlet this Friday will be an exciting opportunity, especially this being our last day in Mtshini Wam.  We are also bringing in the revised instructional guidebooks on carpentry and Litre of Light, and are presenting the certificates for the EPWP workers in the settlement.  These ideas and drafts have all been well-received thus far, which has been great news to hear after the challenges we faced along the way to providing them.  This being our last week of work, we are excited to see if the workbook, guidebooks, and other transition materials we have written for the community will be embraced and utilized in the future of reblocking.  We are planning to keep up with some of the members in the community to see how progress comes along after we leave, and are excited to see what other positives come out of Mtshini Wam in the near future.