Scene 5: Children of Langrug


Recently another a project centre team has been coming to Langrug with us to look at the crèches [link to Kiddies].  We had been told that the crèche leaders had been bringing their children to the WaSH facility, but we had not previously witnessed this until today.

Our goal for this day was to talk to with the community in Zwelitsha about a dry sanitation facility, and obtain some input from them on what they would want included in such a centre.  Nobathembu, one of the crèche leaders, is also a community leader in Zwelitsha and has been very influential in mobilising the community in Trevor and Alfred’s absence.


The WaSH facility and one of the potential sites for a dry sanitation facility in Zwelitsha.

Cast of Characters:
WPI WaSH Team, WPI Kiddies Team, crèche children, Sizwe, Nobethembu, community members of Zwelitsha


We pulled into Langrug, later than anticipated due to a fender bender on the way to work.  As the van turned into the WaSH facility “parking lot,” we found the centre filled with children.  Nobathembu had brought the children from her crèche to use the bathrooms.  We stepped out of the van to chants of “amabhulu”, Xhosa for “white people.”

Children of the crèche in Langrug

Children of the crèche in Langrug

Children raced toward us grabbing our hands in theirs’, some of them still damp from washing their hands.  They danced and climbed on the men in the two groups.

After several enjoyable minutes of this, Nobethembu called for the children and led them back to the crèche.  We followed, and once she had the children settled with another woman, she left with us to go to Zwelitsha. We waited with Sizwe at one of the potential sites for the facility while she gathered community members of Zwelitsha to meet with us.  Sizwe facilitated the meeting, explaining in Xhosa what we were hoping to accomplish and translating their feedback for us.  However, sometimes he would lapse into long conversations and not translate some parts for us.  We gathered that they had had a meeting the day prior and had decided that they would prefer to build the facility in the more central of the two locations.  They also identified several components that they would like to see in the facility, such as a play area for children and proper lighting at night. The play area would keep the children closer to their homes in Zwelitsha for supervision, and the lighting to make the community safer at night.

As we were talking, two small children were playing among us.  One of them wandered to the edge of the platform on which we were standing. Sizwe ran over and scooped up the child before he could fall.

Sizwe and Child from Zwelitsha

Sizwe and Child from Zwelitsha

We finished our meeting, and established that the Zwelitsha community members would be putting together a team of co-researchers.  Additionally, they expressed their interest in taking a field trip to Signal Hill so that some more members of the community can see the Enviro Loo toilets.

It wasn’t until Friday night when we were having dinner with Sizwe and our advisors that we realised exactly what had happened during the exchange.  Sizwe told us that originally, the community members were asking what we would be bringing them.  Sizwe had emphasised that we would only be helping in the design process, and that the community had to decide what they wanted to bring to the new facility and how they would implement it.


This was most we had interacted with the children of Langrug.  The presence of the crèche children at the WaSH facility and those at the future facility site illustrated the importance of child safety in the facilities we plan.   Children are an integral part of the community, and whether we are improving the current facility or designing a new one in Zwelithsa, we need to make them safe spaces for children.

We also found the attitude of the community to be interesting.  It would be easy to arrive in the community to design and build something for them and leave feeling satisfied with work being done.  However, our project is more than that.  Projects like this will be more meaningful and successful if we can work with the community so that they are a part of the process and can replicate the work in the future.