Act 4 Scene 2

“Too Many Soups in the Kitchen”


The WaSH Facility in Mandela Park. The scene later shifts to the van.


Yesterday we were able to catch up after our time away. After formulating plans for the rest of the week and making headway on the plans for the sign, everyone was able to celebrate World AIDS Day with a meal and get-together at the Mandela WaSH Facility. During our discussion, it emerged that the Savings Group gave keys to the caretakers office only to Mama Poto and Nomahala. Mama Thandi and Victoria did not have access. Mama Thandi became visibly emotional and Amanda 2 translated that she fears that if something were to go missing in the kiosk that she could be blamed. It seemed incongruous to the WaSH teams that two caretakers no longer had access and were being hindered from fulfilling their job responsibilities. Our team asked if this could be discussed the following day. Mama Thandi and Amanda 2 initially thought it should just be ignored. After some convincing from our group about the importance of access to supplies in the office, the women finally agreed that it should be talked about.

Cast of Characters


Starting the Conversation

It is overcast and cooler in Langrug today. Everyone gathers in the facility but many people are very sluggish and tired, so Sizwe leads us in some brief stretches. We anticipate a quick discussion about the key followed by a normal workday. Once we finally settle down to work, the WaSH teams do not know how to open the sensitive topic about the keys so Danielle starts by saying we wanted to have a quick conversation before we separate. She asks how many keys there are to the caretaker’s office. The women look at each other uncomfortably and take a while to answer. Finally, Mama Poto says there are two sets of keys. Danielle asks who has those keys and the women answer that Nomahala and Mama Poto have the keys.

Suggestions for Change

The discussion continues with the WaSH teams suggesting that this be changed so all caretakers are able to access the supplies to fulfill their job responsibilities along with the aftercare materials. This is met with opposition by some members of the Savings Group. They say they have already agreed on the two people who will have access to the kiosk and do not want everyone to have access because they fear items and money will go missing and unaccounted. They had a kiosk previously in the WaSH facility and it failed for those exact reasons. When it is asked how the kiosk can operate when it is Victoria or Mama Thandi’s shift, Zodwa and Khungeka say the current plan is for Mama Poto and Nomahala to be at the kiosk all day to help anyone who wants to buy something. Danielle suggests that either Mama Poto or Nomahala check inventory and the amount of money in the box at the beginning and end of each shift. Therefore, an error in record keeping and sales can be caught and traced immediately. This would work well because WaSH-Biz is trying for better recordkeeping to track money and inventory better.

However, the Savings Group does not initially understand the proposition. We try to show our understanding by saying we understand not wanting excessive access to the kiosk so there is not “too many soups in the kitchen”, though we mean to say chefs instead of soups. This is a blunder that we all find funny. When the women do slightly understand the idea, they are still not receptive to it, although we are unsure why. Throughout this time, some members like Amanda 2 and Mama Thandi grow upset at the discord. After much debate, the community members suggests that the WaSH teams leave and let the Working Team and Savings Group collaborate to come up with a better system. Sizwe agrees with the idea, so we follow the suggestion.

Giving the Ladies Space

The WaSH teams and Sizwe travel to the center of Stellenbosch by the public library. We have a very in-depth discussion about the community dynamics, working relationships, and the presence of interpersonal issues. The teams are very frustrated with the constant social issues that hinder progress. After about three hours, the teams return to Langrug to see the progress made by the community members.

Decisions, Decisions

Back in the facility, the community members are ready to share their decision. Khungeka explains briefly that they all, with Trevor’s help, decided that all three caretakers will now have keys to the caretaker’s office and that Nomahala will now be a caretaker and will also have a key. In total then, there would be four caretakers who have full access to the kiosk and caretaker office. Some members are still looking upset and others have their faces pointed down to the table so Danielle asks if this is a unanimous decision. Kungheka and Zodwa quickly respond yes but the discomfort is still present. Danielle asks what the caretakers think and Victoria says “fine” while Mama Thandi will not look up or respond. She still has tears in her eyes. It is quite apparent that this topic is not settled. The women continue to disagree and they share that they still do not feel like they can be open and honest in meetings because people gossip outside of the business setting. Heather and Nicole speak up about learning how to work with each other and sharing feelings of sadness or anger with one another. The students express how upset they are with the petty drama that affects the projects. After much discussion, Amanda 1 suggests that the co-researchers anonymously write some of their issues on folded pieces of paper and put them in a box to be read out loud anonymously. Although it is suggested half-jokingly, the students convince the community members to follow through so they can hear each other’s experiences and feelings, relate and sympathize, and then collectively come up with solutions to the problems. As papers are passed out, the WaSH teams and Sizwe excuse themselves so the co-researchers can work on their own.


Our team is very confused about the next step. The co-researchers have deep-seated issues with one another that hinder their ability to work. Despite our teams dedicating much time to connecting with community members and trying to create an open, honest place to share ideas, it seems there has been minimal progress. We understand the need for community members to respect each other and see the value of their work to motivate them, but we are unsure how to build up these complex, abstract concepts. We feel that our co-researchers do not truly value their involvement in these projects and do not have the self-confidence to believe in themselves. In order to keep our projects, and projects in the future, sustainable, the community needs to realize their value and critical role in keeping up with them.

WaSH looks forward to sharing this experience with Scott and Steve and receiving some input on how to move forward. At this point we are concerned that our projects will shift to community dynamics and our aftercare and library will have to come to a halt. We love the co-researchers but we are disappointed by the lack of respect, understanding, and compromise that is often present amongst them.

Our hope is that we can collaborate with our co-researchers to improve community dynamics, even slightly, and finish what we started. Our hearts are in this and we want to see it through. Additionally, we want to see these women come together as a team, value their work in the project center, and trust each other to stay involved even after we leave South Africa.

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