Scene 2: Communication Troubles on the Forefront



Last week Eric had spoken to us about visiting Flamingo Crescent in order to see the crèche and the recreational space. After email communication with Eric Atmore, we planned to see him at Flamingo at 10am. At Flamingo, we had talked to Terrence about numbering the shacks soon as well. Additionally, we prepared a name tag activity to do with the community leaders for that day.

Cast of Characters

The WPI Flamingo Team – Jacquelyne, Malina, Andres, Justin, Kristin

CECD – Eric Atmore

Community Member – Lenrika

Informal Settlements Network (ISN) – Melanie & Terrence

City of Cape Town – Levona Powell

City of Cape Town Informal Settlement Department – Angelie



Flamingo Crescent Informal Settlement

Lenrika’s House



We pulled up to Flamingo just before 10am. We were eager to start our first full week working with Flamingo. Upon arriving we were greeted by Terrence, Melanie, and Eric. Eric had driven over from the CECD to take a look at the spaces where we were planning on building the playground and the crèche. He was thrilled to see that the space allocated for the crèche was even larger than he had originally thought. Unfortunately he was concerned with the space for the recreational area. The community has already laid brick down in this space which he felt would be dangerous for a child playing in that space. We talked about other options, such as astroturf, but then Eric had to leave.

We reconvened with Terrence and Melanie in Lenrika’s House. They told us that today they would be numbering all of the shacks in the settlement. They asked us to go around to each shack and number it as we saw fit. Once the houses were assigned a number we would go around with Terrence and paint their new numbers onto the shack. We chose to split up so three of us would work on numbering the shacks while the other two made stencils so that the painted numbers would all look uniform.

After about a half hour of assigning numbers we were ready to paint. After we started, we ran into a member of the City of Cape Town Informal Settlement Department, Angelie, and had to check the numbers with her.  She told us that we would have to go through house by house to find out what the old number of the house was before the reblocking and record the new number that it would be assigned. This made sense to us but was something that should have been communicated before we had assigned numbers and started to paint. Due to this setback we had to go back around the whole settlement with Lenrika and Angelie and go through the numbers we had already assigned each shack and then find what number that it used to be.

Once this was finished we thought that we were finally ready to paint. We were wrong. Levona Powell, a worker for the Cape Town Municipality, arrived and had her own opinion for how the shacks should be numbered. She told us we’d have to completely change the numbers to correspond with the four different roads that ran through the community. This was yet another setback and at this point we realized we would not get to paint that day.


Today was filled with miscommunication. We were given instructions for numbering the shacks from Melanie the head of the Informal Settlement Network, then corrected by Angelie from the City of Cape Town Informal Settlement Department, then ultimately corrected again by Levona Powell a municipality worker for the City of Cape Town. The team was set back a bit but we were still able to work through the process due to our determination and perseverance. This day showed us how many people are involved in the process of reblocking and how they all have a different idea of how something should be done.

Due to the lack of communication the instructions were never properly communicated to us and it made the task of renumbering the shacks take much longer than it needed to. Miscommunication is likely something that we will continue to encounter throughout our project and something we need to be prepared for. It was difficult for us to encounter different perspectives so early in the project. With this in mind we must do our best to ask good questions, go to the right sources, and be able to cope when things don’t go the way we planned. Altogether it was a productive day, we finalized the shack numbers and gained a new level of respect for the community leader Lenrika who stuck with us and helped by remembering every single previous number of the shacks. Lenrika proved to us that she has a true understanding of the Flamingo community today and for that we are very thankful. Even though the settlement has made a lot of progress in past months, there is still  miscommunication among key leaders who have strong pulls in Flamingo. We did a good job of bridging that miscommunication today by bringing people together but fear that next time it won’t be so easy.

On another note, we all got to interact with the children on a deeper level today. We held hands and picked them up and spun them around. It was humbling to know that we could bring such joy to these children even just for a few hours.