Project Outcomes: Not Just Toilets Anymore!

During two months in Langrug, our team worked with local community members to develop the social space in the WaSH-UP facility by creating HEW services. After assessing the urgent needs of the community, our team (WPI students and community co-researchers) decided to create an aftercare programme and community library. Additionally, we networked with the local organisation, Health Promoters, which presents important health education to informal settlement communities in an understandable and relevant way. Although we created successful models for both the aftercare programme and the library, near the end of our project, we faced challenges in implementing them due to underlying social complexities in the working relationships with community members. By contending with some of these issues, we gained valuable insight into the application of SAL in informal settlement communities and shared new ideas on complex community collaborations. We chose to spend a few days away from the community and on the last day we were happy to return to Langrug and see the aftercare and library running.

Sizabantu Aftercare Programme

Sizabantu, meaning “We help people” in Xhosa, was the driving motivation for the creation of this programme. With our co-researchers, we identified the need for a programme that would provide a safe and educational place for children to play when not in school or crèche (an equivalent of preschool). On our first day in the community, we noticed children playing in contaminated grey water channels and with razorblades, rocks, and used condoms. While we viewed this as a problem, the gravity of the situation became more apparent when we discussed the idea of childcare with the women. They informed us that many children already played at the WaSH-UP facility after school, but that they would like a more formalised programme to keep them safe, educated, and healthy.

To advance this programme and make it sustainable past our involvement, our team created an Operations Manual explaining aspects of the aftercare such as hours of operation, rules and regulations, registrations, and caretaker responsibilities, among other things. The women even typed up part of the manual themselves. As children began to play at the facility as part of the aftercare programme, healthy habits became quickly established, such as washing hands before eating snacks or after playing outside. On our last day in Langrug, we could see the aftercare fully operational with the caretakers who run it providing a meal for kids, naptime, paper and pencils for drawing, and songs and games led by our co-researchers.

WaSH Facility Aftercare Programme Operations Manual [PDF, 715]

Aftercare Advertisment Flyer [PDF, 504 KB]

Constructing a Dynamic Social Space: Renovations to the Facility

To further transform the space from a sanitation area to a dynamic HEW environment for the aftercare programme, we made the facility more inviting and educational for children by painting the interior with many bright colors and adding educational elements like painting the alphabet and numbers on the sinks. The aftercare and the library also needed storage space, so a small bookshelf was constructed to hold books and equipment. We added a clock and educational posters, some of which even had healthy tips and pictures of fruits. Additionally, we began a “wash your hands” mural on the wall above the sink. Furthermore, the renovations gave the facility a more polished look and the physical changes also increased the enthusiasm of the caretakers. Our report gives full details of the renovations we made with the community.

Report on the 2014 Renovations to the Mandela Park WaSH Facility [PDF, 791 KB]

Encouraging Reading Across Langrug: A Community Library

To further develop the social space and encourage a love of reading and support for education, the community members and our team established a small community library. The library is a great starting point for children to expand their literacy, education, and English comprehension. It also encourages other members of the community to enjoy quiet reading time. The library books are available both for reading in the facility and to check out to bring home. A checkout system was created by our co-researchers and can be found in the operations manual. Though the library is currently quite small, it has a lot of room for expansion, particularly in the second WaSH-UP facility being constructed in Zwelitsha, the neighboring section of Langrug. Our team networked with local book donation organisations and libraries to expand the collection of books. Future projects could work to secure a large donation of books to the library and a continued donation of magazines.

WaSH Facility Community Library Operations Manual [PDF, 515]

Exploring the Social Complexities Affecting WaSH-UP

The success and sustainability of our project were hindered near the end of our working time in Langrug due to underlying community dynamic challenges that we were unable to effectively navigate. Although the aftercare was fully functional on the last day, it is not clear how the intra-community challenges we confronted will affect the sustainability of the programme. The intense team dynamics conversations we facilitated, although frustrating, provided us a unique opportunity to attempt to work through those issues with the community members and gain valuable insight into the internal conflicts of communities, specifically in informal settlements. We explored this experience and analysed the important challenges we faced, contemplated possible causes of those challenges, suggested some solutions for them, and proposed ideas for the future of WaSH-UP. We have carefully recorded our experiences and the insights we gained from them and shared them here on our project website.

Collaboration for Caretaker Health Training

We aided in the establishment of a professional collaboration between Health Promoters and our co-researchers in Langrug. Health Promoters is an organisation that offers healthcare workshops, which incorporate presentations and participatory exercises. In the end, participants can receive a certificate based on their participation, which can lead to more promising job opportunities. This new collaboration was well received by the community, demonstrated through consistent participation in the trainings. One co-researcher was elected Health Promoters Coordinator by our co-researchers, with assistance from two other co-researchers. Her role is to coordinate trainings with Health Promoters and interested community members. We, alongside our co-researchers, saw great potential in utilising the new health knowledge when creating educational aftercare programmes for children.