First Walkthrough of Vygieskraal

The WPI Team and Camelita meet Bhuti, one of the community leaders in Vygieskraal

The WPI Team and Camelita meet Bhuti, one of the community leaders in Vygieskraal













Background: On Wednesday, 28 October, the team walked through the Vygieskraal settlement with Ruwayda, Camelita, and Lameez to get a feel for how the settlement is set up, as well as to gather parents and children to attend the programme at the stadium at 10:00AM. While meeting these families, the team was able to observe the conditions of the community and establish an initial presence in the area.

Setting: Vygieskraal Settlement

Cast of Characters:
FCW: Camelita, Lameez, Ruwayda
Vygieskraal Residents
WPI Team

From the parking lot of the stadium, we looked across a long, grassy field towards the Vygieskraal settlement. There are two bridges that went over canal-like waterways, which serve as the main trails in and out of the community on the stadium side. With Ruwayda in front of us and Camelita and Lameez by our sides, we walked across the field and crossed one of the bridges over a canal of dirty water. Immediately upon entering the settlement, we encountered upwards of 35 portable toilets, most of which were broken in some fashion and smelled. Some had shiny new locks on them, which seemed out of place given what they were safeguarding. We happened to cross paths with one of the community leaders, Bhuti, on his way to a meeting outside of the settlement; he greeted us warmly and welcomed us to Vygieskraal. Once we had passed through the rows of toilets, we were met with the stares of a few women washing their clothes in large basins. Many of them were friendly and asked what our shirts meant. All of our shirts said “WPI,” so we explained that we were from a university in America and were there with FCW to help them with the programmes at the stadium. As we continued our walk, we met various men, women, and children. The majority of them were not only responsive to our greetings, but incredibly welcoming and friendly. We observed that many of the homes were created using corrugated metal sheets. More often than not, the metal sheets were rusting on the edges and covered in graffiti. Other homes were made from scrap wood and other materials. Many of the children we encountered walked around barefoot, even though the streets were littered with trash and broken glass. They were playing with sticks or in the dirt. Most of them were being watched by “aunties,” who are generally older women who act as caregivers for children from several families. Many of the aunties welcomed us to their neighbourhood, and spoke briefly with Ruwayda about the parenting programmes.

We then walked into another section of the Vygieskraal settlement, which had paved roads and, for the most part, larger dwellings. We were told that the larger, concrete structures are RDP houses, structures provided by the government. We were met by stares from several men standing on the streets, and this time felt less welcomed. One asked another in Afrikaans “why are there white people here,” and others responded to us with a brief hello or good morning. One woman ran up to the group as we walked by her shack and urgently explained to us that people were dumping waste into the storm drain in front of her property. She mentioned that the ward councillor had not done anything to stop this from happening and we felt somewhat helpless as we had no way of aiding her. Unfortunately, we were there for ECD, not housing.

Around the corner, we found the public playground. Delaney tested out the see-saw and the slide, which both worked, but we noticed glass and trash scattered across the area. Walking out of the small park, we came upon two teenagers, one of whom had just delivered her baby a month prior, and one who was still visibly pregnant. Lameez and Ruwayda tried talking with them, but immediately the girls shied away from us; they were clearly embarrassed and uncomfortable with our presence. Since our target population for the programmes is young mothers, we were curious as to what the average age of pregnant women is in Vygieskraal, and if special funds for younger mothers are noted and utilised in the settlement.

On the way back through the settlement towards the stadium, Delaney and Julia R walked around the opposite side of a bus than the rest of the group to wave to a few children they had seen. A man approached them from behind, getting very close and explaining his needs. Camelita quickly made her way over as the mood changed from friendly to tense and a little nerve-wracking. Delaney made her way to the others and Camelita positioned herself next to the man, moving Julia a little further ahead. Nothing bad happened, but it was a reminder to the girls that they needed to stay aware of those around them and remain close to those familiar with the community for their own safety. As we made our way back across the bridge to the stadium, we had little time to reflect on what we had just observed, as there were already parents and children waiting for us to start the morning programme.


This initial walkthrough of the settlement was eye-opening for our entire team. While many community members made us feel welcomed, there were a handful of people who were clearly questioning of our presence. Thinking back on this, we felt that while this walkthrough was essential in beginning a relationship with Vygieskraal, we were invading the personal space of the people who live there. We walked along their streets and peered into their homes without having been invited to do so. Other than Ruwayda, the FCW employees who were with us had never walked around that settlement before either. Luckily, Ruwayda had a presence in the community and was our main guide. We didn’t encounter any direct objections to our presence, but the tension and unease that were undoubtedly felt by all serves as a reminder of what we were actually doing. We are white, college-age adults walking through an area that houses a mix of black and coloured people, many of whom live in impoverished conditions. One of the FCW workers mentioned that if we were by ourselves, they would have stolen our work boots because they looked like they were worth a lot of money. This alarmed us and helped us recognise the fact we should never walk without a guide in the settlement.

Looking back on the encounter we had with the teenage girls, we felt embarrassed by the way that our group approached them. These young girls are part of the target population of the programmes run by FCW staff at the stadium. However, they did not seem eager to participate, or even to engage with us in conversation outside of their home. When we initially approached them, a few words were exchanged – however, when Lameez went to take a picture of them, the pregnant girl turned towards the wall as if to shield the fact that she was pregnant. We found it hard to relate on a personal level with these types of situations; we felt empathetic for her and realized that she was likely embarrassed by the encounter, but we are not sure how to deal with similar situations, should they happen again.