A People of Great Hope & A Hidden Paradise

Some of the children at Mureda's crèche in Vygieskraal

Some of the children at Mureda’s crèche in Vygieskraal










Background: Nick and Eric planned to walk through Vygieskraal with the committee and Camelita, while Delaney, Julia R, and Julia S planned to speak with women who attended the morning programme. The intention of this walkthrough was for people to see the face of the programme and to ask any questions they may have about the programmes. Eric and Nick went along to observe the interactions that occurred between the committee, Camelita, and people in Vygieskraal.

Cast of Characters:

Vygieskraal Community Members: Nokwanda, Bongani, Sydwell
FCW: Camelita
WPI Team: Nick, Eric


As we walked across the field, over the land bridge and into the settlement, a warm wind blew some sand into our eyes and we could hear the sound of broken glass shards crunch underneath our boots. Nokwanda and Bongani led us through the community and into the predominately shack area. They first took us into a small street, barely wide enough for three people to stand across, and came to a stop in front of one of the shacks. Bongani knocked on the door, peeked his head in, and said “Hey, there are people here that want to meet you.” Minutes later a woman in her mid-twenties emerged with three little boys. Camelita, who was originally in the back of the group, stepped forward and began talking about FCW and the programmes being held at the stadium. She looked at one of the boys, who looked to be around 6 years of age, and asked why he wasn’t in crèche. The mother responded that they didn’t have enough money, and that none of them had identification either. Camelita then explained that the programmes at the stadium were about preparing the children for crèche and that she should come tomorrow, to which the woman agreed. At this moment, bird excrement fell from the sky and landed right in the middle of where we were standing. Everyone laughed, and the woman said “People say that that is good luck.” We would realise soon how right she was.

We continued to walk through the narrow walkways between the shacks, talking to many of the women we met and encouraging the children we saw to come to the programmes to get food and play in a safe space. Finally, we came to a slightly larger opening that was maybe wide enough for four or five people to stand across. We ducked under some hanging laundry and found three dogs and an older woman. Camelita spoke with the older woman, while the largest dog of the lot was oddly fascinated with us. We continued to listen to the conversation with the dog circling us. The conversation soon finished and as we turned the corner a man stood against a shack urinating onto the ground. It was shocking to see that some people had little respect for the place they live, and were too apathetic to walk a minute to the rows of portable toilets on the outskirts of the settlement.

After walking through the shacks, Camelita turned to Sydwell and asked him if he could take us to the crèche in the community. He replied “no problem, no problem.” We turned away from the shacks and headed down the paved roads. As we rounded a corner our eyes fixated on a bright orange shipping container that was used as a barber shop. A large poster hung in the window of the infamous California rapper, Tupac; an interesting piece of Americana we thought. Nokwanda quickly beckoned for us to come into a home, the entrance of which was covered by a pergola covered in leafy vines. We ducked under the vines and into a room filled with happy and lively young children. We had found it – it was real – the hidden crèche that we were so unsure actually existed, did in fact exist.

Eric, Nick, and Camelita walked through the family room of the informal crèche and into the kitchen doorway while Bongani, Sydwell, and Nokwanda stood around the thirty-plus children. There we were introduced to Mureda, the crèche leader, as well as a few other teachers who were watching the children. Our conversation with them was originally focused on the programmes and FCW, but soon turned into a much deeper discussion. We learned that the teachers at the crèche were taught by Grassroots, and are funded by the Extended Public Works Programme until March of 2016. We learned about their financial struggles, which quickly turned into parent’s interest, or in many cases disinterest, in ECD. The kids were swept away into another room, and we were able to sit down on the couches to have a good discussion on the dynamics of Vygieskraal. The conversation flushed out the various struggles and conflicts between people of different race, first language, economic class, and housing situation. There are so many different divisions inside of the settlement that cause prejudice, but everyone present unanimously agreed that the focus needs to be on the children. The divides must be closed, so that the kids can actually have a chance at a better life. The conversation was grave, but the children were a pinnacle of hope that everyone had faith in. With this, we departed and went back to the stadium with heavy hearts, but also with hope for a better day to come in the future.


Today was an eye-opening day for the team. Nick and Eric were thrilled to finally see the informal crèche in Vygieskraal and to listen in on a conversation about community dynamics. While we had already known that divisions existed among the people of Vygieskraal, today many of us got a crash course in what it is really like. Although the reality of the situation was sobering to see, we could also see a glimmer of hope for the community, as individuals such as Mureda, Bongani, Sydwell, Nokwanda, and the other women who work in the crèche, plan to work together to improve the lives of children in the area.