Today on site I had a chance to meet and speak to Sue Johnson, Habitat South Africa’s National Resource Development and Communications Manager. Sue’s enthusiasm for her work is obvious. She spoke eloquently and passionately about the Pelican Park development and Habitat’s role in it. It is groundbreaking work actually (no construction pun intended).
The end of Apartheid brought the end of segregation. But, as a new democracy with a history of separate-ness, South Africa as a culture is still evolving and learning to move forward as a truly integrated society. The Pelican Park community is, in Sue’s words, “a huge step toward overcoming the negative effects of segregation.” All types of people are literally learning how to live together. Pelican Park is a community that gives people a shot at doing just that in a smart, safe and thoughtful way.
The project was spearheaded by the South African government, but Habitat for Humanity South Africa (HFHSA) was there at its inception, bringing ideas to the table to challenge the paradigm and ensure that the community was designed in a way that will work, by listening its stakeholders – the future homeowners.
Another obstacle HFHSA overcame was convincing a professional developer to let volunteers work on their site. No better way to prove it could be done than by hosting a small team at one site to see how well-organized and effective it could be. Once Power Development actually saw the benefits to working with volunteers, they were easily convinced. All that was left to do was to print the vests and the hard hats.
The integrated community development model also provides an opportunity for South Africans to participate in the government’s broader objective of getting every citizen to be an active part in improving life for all South Africans. For example, the local business development company that sends its employees for a day to work on a Habitat house allows them to give back, and to foster its own team building. The government calls it the Active Citizen Campaign which aims to inspire every citizen to “take action to create the South Africa you want to live in”.
From an outsider’s point of view, it seems like an exciting time to be South African. Despite whatever turmoil comes and the challenges they face in healing from the past, optimism is in the air.
As far as our houses go, the walls continue to get taller! Some of our crew leaders took us to tour some of the finished homes in the development. We saw some of the two-story houses that will be on the open market and several Habitat homes. Another aspect of Habitat’s involvement in this planned community is that they can provide employment for some of the residents. Many of our crew leaders live in Pelican Park or the surrounding area. Thankfully for us, Crew Leader Fenida was willing to let us see her house. And we had the great fortune of meeting another Habitat homeowner today who was moving in!
On another note, our bad luck with weather continues. We left the site a bit early today in the hopes of going to the top of Table Mountain, and although in the early afternoon it looked like we had a good chance, the later afternoon fog rolled in along with drizzle. Not an uncommon occurrence this time of year. Tonight we have more time to enjoy some much-needed rest and recuperation, while strengthening our bonds as team mates and friends.
Nothing wrong with that!