Scene 2: Getting to know the Community Leaders


On our second day in Flamingo, we met with community leaders. This was our first opportunity to get to know their leaders and give them a chance to get to know us and our role in the project.  Because we were several weeks behind in Flamingo already, we planned an activity to jump start the mobilizing process and get to know them on a more personal level.  We each made a nametag which shared something about ourselves with drawings and stickers. The goal of the day was to build a working relationship with the community leaders by creating an opportunity where members from both parties would be able to learn more about each other.

Cast of Characters

WPI Project Team
WPI Professors: Scott Jiusto, Lorraine Higgins
City Employees: Anneline Plaaitjies, Estralita Kwalo, Reggie O’Brien
ISN Staff: Terrance Johnson and Melanie Manuel
CORC Liaison: Sizwe Mxobo
Flamingo Crescent Residents: Auntie Marie, Elizabeth, Lenrika, Mark, Sharie, and Jesmine


The Flamingo Crescent informal settlement, in Lenrika’s shack.


After the recent change of projects, our team had a long night of meetings and planning as we approached our second day in Flamingo Crescent.  We knew that we needed to get off to a good start, hitting the ground running, since we only have a few weeks to work with this community.  With that in mind, we decided the most important first step would be to develop a working relationship with the project steering committee (PSC) that we will be working with throughout the project.  That morning we marked the beginning of a new phase of our time here in Cape Town as we headed to the first meeting for our new project in Flamingo Crescent.

As we headed towards the city offices in Ottery, there was a noticeable lack of morale in all of us.  After the quick shift of projects, each of us was unsure what to do next and how to deal with it.

Upon arrival, we revisited the improvised conference room inside Lenrika’s shack and introduced ourselves to several of the community leaders and members of the PSC.  We were also privileged to have members from Community Organisation Resource Centre (CORC) and Informal Settlements Network (ISN) with us at the meeting.  Melanie, the ISN Coordinator, began the meeting by giving a brief description of the history of the settlement and describing the current state.  We learned that the community had saved around R40.000 to contribute towards reblocking and are eager to begin.  This was very encouraging since 7de Laan was very hesitant towards contributing resources and had an overall disinterest in any form of upgrading.  It was clear that this community was behind the project and willing to work with us in the collective attempt to improve their living conditions.

As Melanie continued, we found that the community, the city, and NGO’s all worked together to create a reblocking plan that pleased each party.  Since the settlement was made up of about two hundred community members distributed throughout six different clusters, trying to please everyone would clearly be very difficult. For the plan to work, the community must play a part.

Melanie also highlighted that CORC and ISN would not be willing to give out free shacks.  From their experiences, they believed the community would naturally take ownership of it if they provide for parts of the upgrading themselves.  There are several different shacks that CORC offered ranging from 10 m2 to 20 m2 each with a different cost increasing with size.  Every household that wanted a new shack would need to make a small monetary contribution for it.


Sizwe from CORC taking a turn in the nametag activity

After Melanie gave a great description of Flamingo Crescent’s history and current status, we began to start an exercise that we had planned the night before.  Several small, coloured sheets of paper were passed out to everyone at the meeting.  Each of us began writing our name, drawing something that represented ourselves, and adding stickers to create a name tag that described parts of who we were.  It started off fairly slow as people weren’t sure what to do with it after they had finished.  Then Sizwe, from CORC, came in late to the meeting and began asking about each person’s name tag, wondering what the story was behind each component.  That created a whole new atmosphere where people started sharing their personal feelings.  Sharie gave us her life story and described that she wants her child to have a better upbringing than she had.  This brought up the idea of a crèche.  Auntie Marie also presented her story explaining that she had taken care of her children and wants the community to take responsibility of their own children as she did.  In the end, this exercise proved to be very helpful in building relationships with the community leaders which will be vital as we work together throughout this project.

The concept of early childhood development and the construction of a crèche were central to a large portion of the discussion.  Auntie Marie proceeded to take a few of us to the Early Learning Resource Unit down the road which could provide valuable information to us as we look into starting a crèche within the settlement.  She also explained that there was a library and even a clinic nearby.  After the productive meeting and finding these resources, we felt very strong about our project and we were eager to begin working.


This was a humbling experience for our group getting to hear the stories and struggles of the community leaders.  After the name tag exercise, the community also saw that we, as Americans, also face hardships and our lives weren’t as perfect as shown in the movies.  We felt much better about our project moving forward and gained confidence in our group and in the community of Flamingo Crescent.