Township pity vs. empowerment
(Thulani Madondo, executive director KYP and Olivia Taylor, CEO Four Elements Conservation)
I recently visited the vibrant Sowetan district of Kliptown.
Growing up as a well-off, white South African can really separate you from the majority of the country. Many people of my demographic are so used to pitying people who are poor and live in the seemingly dangerous townships that they forget that, in essence, we are all the same. This misconception is incredibly misleading and actually dehumanises the people living there.
So, while visiting Kliptown I met up with the incredibly inspiring Thulani Madondo, executive director of Kliptown Youth Program (KYP) and really tried to understand how poorer communities can be aided. Thulani and I spent ages talking about the detrimental effects of certain types of donations and help from outsiders. When foreigners come to the township and hand out things for free, whether it be toys for the kids, food or a new school, it can seriously disempower the community and confirms that what they are doing isn’t good enough. It also ingrains into the younger generation that they cannot rely on themselves for a livelihood. The idea that the government or foreigners are your only way out of the poverty cycle ensures that the creative side of your brain isn’t tapped into and that problem solving takes a backseat.
Besides learning that one truly has to listen to the needs of the community before swooping in and ‘saving the world’ I also realised, and began to understand that, happiness is a state of mind. I know this seems obvious but it can be very difficult to actually feel that you have a choice in the matter. One has the power to direct the content of their thoughts and only then do you allow the good stuff to flow.
Along with some friends, the wonderful IFAW youth delegates, we decided to ask the people of Kliptown what it is that they need. The top 3 results were a form of alternative electricity instead of “borrowing” it from the grid, a more economical use of their farming tunnel and a marketable tee-shirt which incorporates the KYP logo. To date the IFAW youth delegates have funded a brilliant local designer, Resoborg, to incorporate the KYP logo into a really cool design as well as doing some promising research into viable solar panel alternatives for electricity. I’ll let you know when the final design is ready to be sent off to KYP! It is important to remember that you can do anything, but not everything!
“All people have an impact on the world, but you have the power to choose if it is positive or negative…choose wisely” – Jane Goodall