Act 1 Scene 2


New Friends, New Stories


While we mainly situate ourselves in the Mandela Park Facility and storage bungalow, we do spend a small portion of time visiting the Zwelitsha construction site and at the field playing rugby after a day of work!


After a weekend of planning and anticipating, our team was excited to start our first full week with the Langrug community. Most of the week was comprised of conversations, questions, and getting-to-know-you activities. Our team had the opportunity to learn a lot about the general operations and community involvement in the facility, in addition to the community ideas for expansion and personal stories. The experience was very informative and helped our team develop a strategy for moving forward with our project, and helped us further our connection with the community members.

Cast of Characters


Day 1: Monday, October 27, 2014

Getting Started

Upon arrival in Langrug on our first official Monday, we are greeted by beautiful weather and an empty facility. We are waiting for Scott and Steve to pull up with Sizwe as a couple members of the WaSH teams head up to Zwelitsha to gather more community members. Soon we are all gathered in the facility together chatting about the weekend and what we did around Cape Town. It is refreshing to talk openly with the ladies after a couple days of being apart.

Sizwe quickly calls our meeting to order and asks for a plan for the day. Heather explains that we want to start with project introductions so everyone involved is on the same page.  All of the WPI students begin taking notes as each project is explained to the participating community members and all kinds of questions are answered. Many people also begin contributing ideas for the Savings Group in Langrug, different services they hope to offer their community, and tidbits of information about the Langrug community.

General Operations of the Facility

After project discussions, we move into basic questions about the general operations of the facility, the organisation of the Savings Group, and the visions for both projects. We learn that the women managing the facility are striving for organisation and self-efficiency in their programmes and within the Savings Group. While the facility has some sense of a schedule and structure, there is much more that can be done to make the entire endeavor, including the Savings Group and Services, more sustainable. The women are all extremely enthusiastic and dedicated to upgrading their community through the WaSH facilities. They make jokes and laugh while giving us valuable information and ideas.

Team Bonding

Celebrating Sizwe’s and Mama Poto’s Birthdays

Celebrating Sizwe’s and Mama Poto’s Birthdays

After a long day of discussion, our teams sit down with the ladies, Sizwe, and Alfred for a celebratory lunch as it is Sizwe’s birthday! Coincidentally, Mama Poto’s birthday was the previous day. We distribute hand sanitizer, food, drinks, and cake while chatting about family life and our different cultures. We talk about ages, realizing that most of the women we are working with are around our age or slightly older, and have at least one child. The ladies wonder if we have kids of our own and are surprised when we say no. It is an eye opening experience that helps us understand the community that much more.

Once everyone is finished with lunch and has cleaned up, we move outside to throw the rugby ball around! Eventually we move to a field a short walk from the WaSH facility. We put our stuff down and begin splitting up teams. The field is very open but is cluttered with trash in areas A couple other community members come join us and for the last half hour of our day. We bond with the ladies while playing rugby, taking pictures, and laughing with each other.

Bonding Over Rugby

Bonding Over Rugby

As our van is pulling away, Kholeka stops us and tells us to wait. She comes back a minute later with frozen popsicles for each of us since we are all hot after playing rugby. Our teams are extremely grateful for the cold snack on the ride home.


Day 2: Tuesday, October 28, 2014

New Friends and New Places

Our next day in Langrug is shorter, but filled with lots of useful information. We start our morning in Zwelitsha talking with the ladies, Sizwe, Andrew, and a man from a local NGO. A couple of the students begin to help the community members construct the floor of the facility while others talk with Andrew and the NGO member about the issues within informal settlements. Sizwe, Alfred, and Adi, another member of CORC, have a private meeting while the students continue to help the community members with the Zwelitsha facility.

We soon move to a new area of Langrug that we had previously not explored. It appears that Adi, Sizwe, and Alfred are giving a tour to the man from the NGO. Sizwe explains the issue of keeping water contained and moving throughout the community to prevent grey water build up to our project teams and the man from the NGO. Ideas for trash and recycling receptacles near the WaSH facility are also discussed. Issues are raised about keeping trash so close to a sanitation facility. It is suggested that a more appropriate place for designating trash would be farther from the facility. The man from the NGO talks about how white South Africans believe that just because they are paying taxes that they are doing their part but he believes much more needs to be done. After input from Alfred and a brief discussion, the group moves on to the next location.

Tour of Langrug

Tour of Langrug

Working in Specific Teams

After our short tour, we begin working on our projects and split up into teams with the community members. Mama Poto and Mama Thandi, the caretakers in the facility, have joined the WaSH-Serv team to help expand services and programmes in the facility. Sizwe explains that they are also trying to get in contact with another member of the community that has previously run programmes in the area.

We sit down with the caretakers and Alfred, who is helping both WaSH teams, to discuss operations of the facility, the informal school aftercare programme the facility currently runs, the operations of the HIV/AIDS support group, and the responsibilities of the caretakers. Mama Poto and Mama Thandi tell us that children from the crèche come to the facility during the day to use the toilets and sinks, because other facility’s equipment is not kept as clean and children shouldn’t use it. They also spend time there if the crèche becomes too hot. They also mention that the children love coloring and drawing. After they are done with their day at the crèche, many children come spend time at the facility, even if it is closed. The caretakers express that they would love a swimming pool for the children to prevent them from playing in tap and grey water. We bring up water, sanitation, and hygiene education within the facility and the caretakers believe the parents would support such programmes.

Next we moved into caretaker responsibilities and schedules. Mama Poto gives us a detailed description of what she does each morning from 6:00-14:00, and Mama Thandi gives her input for her shift from 14:00-22:00. Both women clean toilets, sweep the floor, water the spinach, and distribute toilet paper to people who come to use the facility. They note how one of the harder tasks is to take care of drunken men who fall asleep on the toilets. Overall they both enjoy their jobs. They also said the job is well suited for them while they live with HIV/AIDS. They are also hoping to expand the services offered in the facility.

Our last topic of discussion concerns the HIV/AIDS support group that involves several of the community members. They mention that while the group still exists, it is struggling to maintain organization, keep members, and have weekly meetings. The group used to meet twice a week, on Saturdays and Sundays. On Saturdays they had meetings open to people infected and those not infected by the disease. Sundays were dedicated only to people who are positive. As group members got busier, it was harder to establish common meeting times, and therefore the group began to fall apart. Because there still exists a social stigma toward community members struggling with HIV/AIDS, Mama Poto and Mama Thandi would like to see this changed. Many people are afraid to get tested and therefore avoid knowing their status. The caretakers hope to re-establish the group with meetings, committed members, and more knowledge about how to run effective, sustainable support groups so more members in the community will feel safe getting tested and protecting themselves and others. Mama Poto and Mama Thandi mention getting in contact with a successful support group to learn from.

After our conversations, we sit down to a quick lunch with the community members before heading out for the rest of the day.

Day 3: Thursday, October 30, 2014

Our team heads out from the Lodge at 8:30am without the WaSH-Biz team, as they are staying in to do extra research and pull together some ideas. After the hour long commute, we reach Langrug on a rainy, cold day and join the community members for our meeting. Everyone in the community is bundled up in winter coats and hats, which the team finds amusing, considering it is still relatively warm compared to a Massachusetts late October day!

We begin settling into the WaSH facility when Mama Poto suggests moving to the storage bungalow next door. Alfred explains that it is more insulated and therefore warmer. Once inside, we all gather chairs and sit in a circle. For the most part, the community members sit to one side so we can all see them, but Mama Thandi decides to take a seat with our group.

Getting more knowledge

We begin our questions with the most common issues faced by women, men, and children in the community. Each person contributes different ideas mentioning pregnancy, disease, high blood pressure, HIV/AIDS, and cancer as issues for women, alcoholism, HIV/AIDS, and smoking for men, and general rashes and diarrhea for children. Many of these health and well-being issues stem from greater problems, like trash collection, explains Alfred. Because there is not a very systematic process for trash pick-up, people constantly have to live in it, creating an environment for disease. They explain to our group that while the Municipality of Stellenbosch recognizes the issue and tries to fix it, their solutions have limitations. Alfred also mentions that in order for the Municipality to get involved, the community must raise its concern.

We then move onto the idea of an afterschool programme for children and teenagers. Mama Poto tells us that the children playing in the facility are normally between the ages of three and five. Once the kids go to primary school at about six or seven, they begin to play over by the school more frequently. We discuss the option of decorating or painting the facility to make it more attractive and educational.  Alfred also brings up the possibility of adding more plants as decorations outside the facility. Additionally, the community members voice their hope one day for a library and access to internet so their children are more skilled when they go to school.

We spend the rest of the day talking about the HIV/AIDS support group and strategies for restarting and maintaining the group. Alfred, Sizwe, and the women tell us that many people do not check their HIV status unless they are very sick, and even if they do test positive, they tend to only treat the symptoms. Pregnant women, when they receive check-ups, usually get tested, but tend not to go back for treatment if they turn out to be HIV positive. Luckily there are preventative measures for the babies so that mother to child transmission is decreased. Overall, there seems to be a huge issue with denial, and even more so with ignoring the issue.

There is a mobile clinic down the road from the WaSH Facility which the support group had previously collaborated with to spread awareness of meetings and encourage everyone to get tested. Although the testing itself is private, the area you go to in the clinic after testing is public and discloses your status. This set up makes people feel uncomfortable and is a central reason they do not get tested on a regular basis. They share a scary perspective with us, as well. Some people in the community that do test positive for HIV start questioning, “why me?” and become hostile. They take this out by having a variety of sexual partners without disclosing their status, spreading the disease further.


After our formal questions are finished up, the group talks about sexual health in America versus South Africa. We share a lot of information about sexual health and disease and are surprised when many of the young community members don’t know about those topics. It is very apparent that sexual education is not something emphasized in the community. We talk about HIV and other STIs in both our communities. Amanda explains that many people the Langrug community don’t have knowledge of other STIs and therefore think every symptom is a result of HIV/AIDS.

It is a great cultural learning experience talking with the women in the community about sexual health. We learn a lot about each other as we exchange ideas and thoughts, but also share stories of our loved ones and how they have been affected by sexual transmitted diseases and infections.

Group Dynamics

The car ride home proves to be equally as interesting. Our group, along with Sizwe, talks a lot about who we are and where we come from, as well as our education. We share insecurities, differences, and general information about ourselves, our relationships, and our lives. It is an eye opening experience that brings the group closer together and establishes a deeper relationship.


Getting started on the first steps of our project was exciting and relieving. After talking with the group about our specific projects and asking them questions about the facility, we felt more at ease and comfortable coming up with a starting strategy. It was thrilling to hear how dedicated the women are to upgrading their community through the savings group and the WaSH facilities. The women are self-motivated and enthusiastic; it really made an impact on our group.Their openness to share their positive statuses and struggles with HIV/AIDS encourages us to work hard to create the most successful programmes possible.

It was also an eye opening week as we learned much more information about health issues in the community and how they affect everyone. We felt much more connected with everyone as they shared their stories and asked us questions about our culture back home. We felt much more open and willing to share our own experiences and stories with both the working team and the women in the community.

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