A Month with Father Jorge: Reflections on South Africa, Zambia, and Namibia
**Cross-posted from the South African SDI Alliance blog**
By Yolande Hendler (on behalf of SA SDI Alliance)
Father Jorge is one of the longest-standing friends and a much-valued mentor not only of the SA SDI Alliance but also of the broader Shack/ Slum Dwellers International (SDI) family. He has been visiting South Africa for the last 25 years, joining us for his most recent visit from October to November 2014.
From Argentina to Japan to the World
Born in Argentina in 1930 Father Jorge Anzorena, has been living in Tokyo, Japan for more than 50 years as a Jesuit priest, an architect and a professor, leading a remarkable life (read more here). His attentive ear for people, listening, understanding and documenting the organisation processes of poor communities throughout the world draws a common thread through his experiences.
As part of an initiative in 1976 by the Catholic church and Jesuit order to understand how poor people organised themselves around land and housing Father Jorge began travelling between numerous poor people’s movements and communities in Asia, ranging from Philippines to Korea, Thailand, Indonesia, India and Sri Lanka. About a decade later, Father Jorge visited South Africa and became part of the first dialogues between urban poor communities from Asia, Africa and Latin America. Father Jorge has visited South Africa regularly ever since.
Reflections on South Africa
This year Father Jorge spent time in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban– visiting many communities, attending meetings and gatherings such as the National Human Settlements Indaba and reflecting on changes, challenges and points of progress:
“Over the years that I have visited I have witnessed three upgrading projects, in Sheffield Road, Mtshini Wam and Flamingo Crescent. When we first started upgrading in Sheffield Road it took a long time, and few people were enthusiastic because they didn’t know what to expect. Now in Mtshini Wam, we are looking at the next phase after upgrading, which is densification together with a team of professionals that was interested in building on the wishes of the community in order to be as inclusive as possible. Very rarely do you find professional teams that are considerate of the community’s wishes and plans. In Flamingo Crescent you can see developments in the upgrading projects: it was completed after just 5 months of construction, where Mtshini Wam took one year. There is also a transformation in the community. People are really thinking about how they can develop themselves.”
“I have also seen a change in how the alliance relates to government (and vice versa) in two meetings I attended with officials of the City of Cape Town and the Department of Water and Sanitation where FEDUP/ISN, CORC and students were presenting alternative models to the Department. It seems that government is taking more notice of the alliance and considering its capacity to present the projects and plans of the community”
Reflections on Zambia
During October and November Father Jorge was warmly welcomed by the Zambian and Namibian Alliances. The Zambian federation shared its work on water kiosks that the community of Kalunduville settlement near Kafue had built to ensure their first ever access to water in the settlement.
“The water kiosks are important because they require community effort and connect people to each other. Sometimes with individual benefit projects a community can be separated but when everyone contributes (like digging the trenches) this can really change the mentality of a community and build solidarity which is very important for slum dwellers”
At a savings scheme meeting in George Compound in Lusaka, which gathered Federation leaders from all over Zambia, the Federation spoke about the projects it is undertaking through using community savings such as eco-san toilets, home-improvement loans, the building of resource centres and drainage systems.
“This Federation is unique because it doesn’t live on hand-outs – please, wherever you go, tell them that the Federation in Zambia is alive!”
(Cecelia, Zambian Federation, Ndola)
Reflections on Namibia
The Namibian Federation invited Father Jorge to Etuyeni savings group in Havana settlement just outside Windhoek and to a group meeting of various savings schemes’ bookkeepers in Gobabis. Etuyeni savings group shared its challenges around accessing municipal land and its plans to build houses through using savings to make its own bricks. In Gobabis the Federation’s bookkeepers shared insights on the strong savings and financial system it has established in managing its own funds.
“In Namibia I noticed the change of responsibility. It’s not the NGO that is responsible for the finances but it is the community. In many other places the NGO pushes the community to return the money – but when the community controls the money they take much more responsibility to use it. Often it is difficult for poor people to think long term because the focus is on surviving in the moment. But the change that comes with savings is that people can start thinking about the near future. ”