Scene i: A Proper Introduction


Sizakuyenza is a South African based Non-Profit, Non-Governmental  Organization designed to assist with women and children’s health and safety. The organization commissioned the Sizakuyenza Safe House in 2007. The Safe House provides shelter, medical provisions and legal counsel to women and children who are survivors of domestic abuse. The women who stay there can find opportunities to advance themselves as mothers and learn new skills before reintegrating to society.


Act I Scene i

Cast of Characters

WPI Safe House Team: The Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) team consisted of five third year students with a variety of majors: Samantha Ervin (MG/IN), Julia LaValley (PSS/BE), Jonathan Mirabito (CE/PW), Jacob Mercier (ME), and Christina Noyes (BIO). The team worked very closely with the Interdisciplinary and Global Studies Division (IGSD) in order to effectively link WPI and Cape Town, South Africa communities to complete the multi-layered social project.

Nontembiso: Manager of Sizakuyenza. She is heavily involved in every aspect of the organization and oversees all of the operations. She is onsite most days and is a great resource to answer any questions about Sizakuyenza.

Mama Pilisani: Manager of the Sizakuyenza.  She was a great resource for connecting with others outside of the Safe House as well as getting to know the key players in the organization.


Picture 2


The day consisted largely of touring through the Sizakuyenza headquarters and the safe house. This was good because it allowed everyone to feel a little more comfortable and relaxed than an office style meeting or interview would have. There were clear, sunny skies which nicely complimented the open complex of the safe house.


The branches of the entire organization quickly began to reach out to us. The tour of the premises with the organization’s manager introduced us to those involved in every function of Sizakuyenza. The leaders were very clearly influential in the community and provided numerous important services not offered elsewhere in the area. They claim this is only possible through connecting with those around them and that cooperation with the neighboring organizations is consistently crucial, especially in the Safe House.

In meeting Mama Pilisani, we found our first in depth connection. The kind-hearted, well-spoken woman spoke conversationally in an informative manner. She was able to share many profound ideas and opened up to us about her network. She received the House Mother of the world award and is an international leader in the recovery of survivors.  Through her, we have the ability to connect with many other resources as well as utilize the vast amount of knowledge she has. Connecting remains an important aspect of our project to maximize success.


Our first visit was driven by numerous broad questions that we had for Sizakuyenza as a whole. In a fairly direct way, we wished to find answers with which we could move forward in a more informed manner. Our big questions were as follows:

  •  What does Sizakuyenza do?
  •  What is the Safe House’s main purpose?
  •  What role can we play within the Safe House?
  •  What are the priorities for us?

Actions and Observations

Our first exposure to Sizakuyenza yielded many unexpected findings. These proved to be valuable and will certainly change our future actions. Surprisingly to us, the organization is highly effective and well established. The extensive services provided range greatly and are well established with excellent people running them. As far as the Safe House, it is a large, well-kept space in which facilities are generally in good repair and beneficial to the residents. The ideas of Mama Pilisani are exciting, hopeful, and flexible enough to allow for our creativity. While there are opportunities for improvement, the Safe House is generally better than we had imagined.

However, we ran into another unforeseen obstacle. Rather than fighting crime, natural aging, and the weather, which are aspects we had considered, the main issue is the younger residents themselves. We must adapt our plans to accommodate a wandering, adventurous and often angry personality by making our designs childproof. This opened an entire new avenue of thought and provided another obstacle that we are thrilled to conquer.

Notes for future scenes

We have made a good start in the Safe House, and can continue to implant ourselves within the organization to become an integral part. We have an understanding of operations, but we can continue actively learning and asking questions. We can begin to present our suggestions and ideas and take control of our project as an educated, well researched, capable team.

Reflection and Learning

Hearing about some of the women and children’s behaviors at the safe house shows us a lot about how we can improve our research and decision making from here on out. While studying, we only took into account the treatments and programs that would help the women progress. We neglected to take into account the behaviors of the women and children as they are now. Our team was focused on the future and was now completely taken aback.

Scene ii >>