Scene 7: “Do You Trust Us?”

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


WPI has been working in Langrug for several years. The previous projects left behind significant physical improvements to the community, such as an improved water tap or the groundwork for a WaSH facility.  In the six weeks we have been working in Cape Town, our project has been less hands-on and more focused on research, writing, and forming new partnerships to carry our work forward.


WaSH Facility, during a weekly meeting with advisors and community leaders

Cast of Characters:

Scott Jiusto and Lorraine Higgins (Advisors), Trevor, Alfred, and Nobathembu (Community Leaders) Olwethu and Baraka (CORC liaisons),WPI WaSH team, Zwelitsha Co-Researchers,  Paula, Sam and Sophie (University of Cape Town).


It was Tuesday, and we were having our weekly meeting with advisors (Scott and Lorraine), CORC liaisons (Baraka and Olwethu) community leaders (Trevor and Alfred), Zwelitsha co-researchers (Noncedo, Siya, Funeka, and Washington) and anyone else around the WaSH facility.  In addition, Paula, a civil engineer, and Sam and Sophie from the University of Cape Town were with us to see how we work and if they could partner with us on the new facility.

We had no new designs to share, but rather progress updates on our discussions with future partners.  We were writing a proposal of what we hoped to accomplish for our contacts at the Municipality, and had meetings scheduled to determine the involvement of organisations such as Touching the Earth Lightly and Enviro Loo.

As we moved through our agenda items, it became clear that the community members were starting to become skeptical of our work, with little physical improvements to show for the plans we have been making.  Trevor bluntly asked us what we would be leaving behind in Langrug.  We looked at each other, unsure of the answer he was looking for.  Scott spoke up and said, “We have been working with you guys for several years now, and you’ve seen the way we work and what we can do.  We are working very hard to make this happen.  Do you trust us?”

A silence came over the room.  After a long pause and clear thought behind the words, Alfred replied, “We do trust you, but this year is different. We haven’t seen anything yet this time.”

Joe assured them of the work we have been doing.  He pointed out that our work has drawn the attention of several potential partners, including Paula and the students from UCT, in addition to the others we will be talking to this week.  He pointed out that all of these people want to work in Langrug, and that the plans we are all working on together will be important to leave behind to these new partners.  The co-researchers seemed satisfied with this answer.

Baraka posing after saying his final goodbyes to Langrug community members

Baraka posing after saying his final goodbyes to Langrug community members

Shortly thereafter, Scott and Lorraine had to leave for another meeting, and were taking Baraka with them.  The mood was significantly lightened when Baraka announced that he would not be returning.  He would be graduating UCT with his Masters Degree and returning to his home in Kenya.  Everyone was sorry to see him go, but excited for him.

Before we left ourselves, we had a brief meeting with the caretakers of the WaSH facility to discuss the improvements we had identified for the current facility.  We left behind a list of these improvements, and encouraged them to implement the ones they wanted.

Reflection and Learning:  

We all wish we had more physical deliverables to show for our work.  It is important to remember that our plans are essential to ensuring the success of a new facility. Planning was a large part of our project because the Zwelitsha facility will operate differently than the current one in Mandela Park. It was critical for us to layout groundwork for the new facility before beginning our construction. We are proud of our hard work and value the relationships we created with the Langrug community and our liaisons along the way. We hope that with the help of our new partners, construction and operational procedures of the new facility are successful.