Today we went directly to the Ditshego preschool in the Mooiplaas informal settlement, located on and around a refuse disposal site. Although the settlement is home to perhaps 16,000 people, it has no electricity, water, or sewer services, and it was immediately clear that the Ditshego projects were doing God’s work among this group of God’s people. We started with introductions to the teachers, followed by a tour of the classrooms, clinic, offices, and kitchen. We then separated to help as we could in the classrooms, clinic, and kitchen.
Toward the end of the morning, we gathered for a walking tour of the settlement, accompanied by Isabel and members of Ditshego’s home care team, which helped us gain a better, although limited, understanding of the circumstances of the residents whose children are served by Ditshego. We stopped by a crèche (child care center, which in this case doubled as an event venue), a church in the process of growing from meeting under a tarp to building a concrete block enclosure, and a small but well-tended and productive vegetable garden, and passed by numerous salons, barbershops, and small general stores. Water trucks were the most frequent vehicle traffic, although we did see a taxi that was briefly delayed by a herd of goats passing down the street. On the way to our next destination, a larger garden enterprise, Ivan and Fedor spotted a small fire burning near the top of what appeared to be a utility pole. Since there was no general electrical distribution to the site, it wasn’t clear whether live lines were involved, but if the burning object had dropped to the ground, there was danger of the fire spreading quickly among the corrugated tin shacks. As we tried to report the fire, we eventually learned it had been reported some time earlier, so the apparent lack of any emergency service response added further to our appreciation of the risks the residents live with daily.
Our next stop was a large vegetable garden that was started with a few plants grown by a woman who lived in the settlement. Over time, she expanded it into an important enterprise providing fresh vegetables for an adjacent preschool and, on occasion, for Ditshego, as well as a source of employment for other women who work there on a co-op basis with their hours worked determining their share of any income. The garden was beautifully tended and had expanded to feature two hydroponic tunnel gardens full of lush spinach plants, growing from fertilized liquid fed from elevated tanks. Next to the garden was “the White House” where three women were at work making beautiful jewelry, for which we were a happy group of customers.
Following our tour, we returned to the Ditshego Place of Safety property for lunch and an afternoon spending more time with students, staff, and teachers. There were games with the children, preparation of crosses for the children to decorate, and computer training for staff.