Scene 2: Sudden Realizations


After touring a few crèches with Alfred, one of the community leaders, we went back to the WaSH facility to debrief. Alfred had another meeting to attend but one of the caretakers was there to show us around. We asked the caretaker, Victoria, if there were any other crèches close by that we would be able to see. She brought us to the last crèche that we would see for the day.

Cast of Characters:

Alfred, Victoria, ECD Team, Langrug creche leaders and children


A wire fence surrounded the L-shaped shack. Two boys peeked out of one of the doors.  A long piece of wood lay across two small stacks of cinderblocks —an empty bench—on which no one sat. A small bucket sat next to the building, looking a little out of place. A small stone path lead from the door to nowhere, ending inside the fenced area. It was quiet as we stood there. As the wind blew across my face I smelled something awful. I turned around to realize that the smell was coming from a grey water channel. A plastic Coke bottle floated on the surface.




Actions and Observations:

Victoria, one of the caretakers of the WaSH facility and our guide for the day, yelled something in Xhosa that I didn’t understand. We waited for a moment. After no answer she opened the gate. The two boys peeking out of the side door ran out and looked sideways at us as they approached the bucket next to the shack. I realized that this was their way of using the bathroom. A tall woman exited after the boys and greeted us. The woman who I assumed was a teacher and Victoria spoke in Xhosa for a moment and then Victoria introduced us as we entered the shack. The side door led to a tiny space that was used as a kitchen. The children had just finished eating. Katelyn helped collect dishes and passed them in to the tall woman. There was a pile of something that I couldn’t make out underneath a black plastic covering that filled a good section of the kitchen space from floor to ceiling. Victoria signaled for me to move forward into the next room and I struggled to find room. Initially, I thought the kids were just excited to see us as they huddled close to Katelyn and Mindy, but as we shuffled forward I realized how small the space was for the nearly 40 children and their three teachers. There wasn’t a single spot on the floor that I could see. The children and their teachers began to sing “If You’re Happy and You Know it,” and when it was time to spin around, one little boy in his excitement took too big a step. The space was so packed with children that he bumped into the girl next to him, causing a domino effect, knocking down five other children. That is when I realized how serious an issue space is, especially for such a large group of children. Though there seemed to be enough supervision, the lack of toilet facilities and space alone concerned us. The smiles on the children’s faces and the love the women there had for them were the only things that lightened my heart as we shook hands and thanked them for letting us see their crèche.


After leaving that crèche many things weighed on my mind. It had not been the only crèche we saw but it had more of an impact on me than any other. Learning about the dire situations of informal settlements back on campus had nearly brought tears to my eyes. Actually seeing it with my own eyes and shaking the tall woman’s hand, thanking her for welcoming us, didn’t bring me to tears but sent me into deep thought. I thought about what I could possibly do to make things better or easier for her and the children she cared for. How might our project possibly help their situation in any way? Could our group sit down with her and learn what it is she does and how she runs things? My hope after seeing this shack, with such loving, caring and vibrant children and people in it, is to find a way to help, even if it’s just with ideas and brainstorming.