Objective 1

Connect with the Safe House staff and residents by interacting with the workers, women and children through social activities

This objective was crucial in order to establish lasting trust between groups. In order to establish a working relationship, a friendship founded on trust and understanding had to be formed. The team achieved this trust in a few key ways.


Primarily, the team received a tour of Sizakuyenza, and asked questions to express interest and excitement in their work. The crucial staff included the house mothers, social workers, health clinic testers, and financial advisors. The small, informal interviews with staff were guided using  four major questions:

What does Sizakuyenza do?

What is the Safe House’s main purpose?

What role can the team play within the Safe House?

What are the priorities for the team in their stay?

The team shared contact information and some personal background with the liaison and house mothers. After meeting the crucial staff in the organization, it was important to reflect on new material and review how the cast of characters had developed or changed. A lot of time was spent observing the network of the Safe House and their roles in the project (see Act I Scene i).

Relations with the Residents

After the team started to form mutual understanding and respect with the staff, it became appropriate to meet the survivors. The team decided it would be beneficial to recognize themselves as outsiders and attempt to understand the survivors‘ home delicately.

  • When lunch was prepared, the staff invited the team to share it with the residents. At one big table, the group ate together and shared stories of cultures.
  • Simple Xhosa lessons started the second working day, and the team made an effort to understand key phrases and make small talk in their language. This bridged a culture gap and created equality nearly immediately.
  • The team asked the residents for a tour of the house that gave much more personal insight.
  • The team shared pictures of family and friends with the residents to introduce intimate lifestyle details. The activity required a certain level of openness from the team in the hopes the women will reciprocate the feeling of trust later on.
  • Residents and team members shared pie and cupcakes during resident birthdays.
  • The team asked the residents to accompany them to the hardware store, florist, or any other errand to emphasize teamwork. The encounters between the student team and Safe House personnel, women, and children, were crucial in the first week in order to work with, not for the house.

After establishing a good level of comfort, it was beneficial to ask the women casually what they enjoy in their free time and what kinds of things they wished to see in the Safe House.  The housemothers and social worker were an excellent resource to facilitate getting to know the residents. Communication of mutual goals started upon the staff and team consensus approval.