Scene 8: Leaving Langrug


Our presentations on Tuesday were for anyone who could come to the community centre in Cape Town.  However, Langrug is an hour away, and many of the people we worked with don’t speak English.  So on Thursday we went out to the settlement to present our work and our poster to our friends there.  Some of our new partners from TTEL (Touching the Earth Lightly) and our current partners (Sizwe and Olwethu) at CORC (Community Organisation Resource Centre) joined us as we informed the community of how the project would move forward.  This was a critical day, because just two weeks ago we had a meeting with the community leaders in which they expressed their frustration that we had not produced anything concrete for our work with them. Two weeks ago, the best we were able to tell them was “Our work is attracting people who want to work with us.  We will be meeting with them to try to make this happen.”  Now we had established partnerships to introduce to them.



Mandela Park WaSH facility, Batho’s Place


Cast of Characters:


Scott, Lorraine, Trevor, Alfred, Nobathembu, Sizwe, Olwethu, Stephen, Caretakers (sans Victoria), Co Researchers, WPI WaSH Team, WPI ECD Team.



We arrived in Langrug with our poster and two thick documents.  Having Sizwe and Olwethu there to translate was such a blessing.  CORC had been closed since the 13th for the holiday, and both Sizwe and Olwethu had plans to go to Eastern Cape for Christmas.  Yet because of Olwethu’s car trouble and Sizwe’s generosity to postpone his plans for us, they were there on unpaid time.  Some of the community leaders speak good enough English to translate our words to Xhosa, but with the CORC guys there we were guaranteed that the meaning behind our words would be fully communicated.


Community members gather around the poster

Community members gather around the poster

We first introduced Stephen from TTEL, who showed them pictures of his past work while we waited for everyone to arrive.  Then we unveiled the poster, with plenty of pictures that everyone could understand.   Finally, we explained our documents and gave them a list of the improvements that we had collectively agreed upon could be implemented at the current facility.  We reminded them that it was up to them to make the changes that they wanted to, and that WPI’s grant would be helping them financially through CORC.

The community members were smiling, and seemed pleased with what we were saying.  Sizwe, never afraid to ask difficult questions, asked them what had changed from when they wanted to see something physically built.  Washington Boise, one of our co-researchers with whom we’ve gotten particularly close, spoke up and said (in Xhosa) that they understand the complexity of the project, and are pleased with the people we have introduced to them to carry on our work.  He also said that two months ago, they didn’t know that toilets in the neighborhood of Zwelitsha would be possible, and we have shown them that it is, and they are willing to wait for us to finish the plans.

As the discussion drew to a close, Joe ended the meeting by saying, “We just want to thank you for welcoming us into your home here.  I think I speak for my team when I say that in the past two months we have learned more from you than we could from any book or class.  We hope the journey has been rewarding for you as well.  And so, from the bottom of our hearts, Enkosi kakhulu.”

This drew a round of applause and a few tears, after which Washington replied, “You are a very good speaker and took the words out of my mouth”.

During A-Term, the students of the project centre had arranged to have T-shirts made for ourselves.  While in Africa, we had the design replicated at a local printer to give T-shirts to those we worked with.  We gave the T-shirts out along with certificates stating their contribution to our efforts.

Our advisors then paid for lunch for everyone at Batho’s Place, the restaurant down the road where we had met with David about public health training.  He served chicken cauliflower and mixed vegetables this time, and it was delicious.   As we finished eating David put on some music, and people started dancing.  Though they call it something different, we followed Sizwe in a line dance similar to the electric slide.

Last glimpse of the Mandela Park facility

Last glimpse of the Mandela Park facility

And then it was time to go. We said tearful farewells, and drove away from the WaSH facility for the last time.  Once we got to the main road, we turned around and caught one last glimpse of Langrug.  The zinc roofs of Zwelitsha, the neighborhood on the hill with no toilets (yet) gleamed in the afternoon sun.  It’s hard to describe the beauty of an informal settlement to those who have not seen one.  Shacks are turned into homes where a community forms.  Humans surviving on less than they need, yet still surviving as we return to our lives in America, but with their hope and faith embedded in our hearts.

We rounded a bend in the road and they were gone.