January 15, 2007

Monday, January 15, 2007

By Justin Boldt

Six of us got up at 7 am this morning to go run. It is much harder to run in Johannesburg because of the higher altitude. It was cloudy and rainy for most of the morning. After breakfast we listened to a presentation by Mmathabo Mrubata and Marlett Balmer, two ladies from Palmer Development Consulting. This is a really small company that focuses on renewable energy, housing, and education. They told us about some very fascinating projects. One of them was solar cooker research. They have designed these big bowl-like drums that use the sun to cook food. One of them was nicknamed “Mandela’s Microwave,” which could cook food for hundreds of people. Another very interesting project was called the BnM fire lighting project. They have discovered that if they fill a 20 liter drum with (from bottom to top) coal, newspaper, wood, and more coal, then it burns much more efficiently with a 90% reduction in smoke. These projects are important because they allow poorer people to save money and resources.

After this we went on an all day tour, led by Mmathabo, of various townships. We first drove to a hostel. This is where the men who worked in the mines would live. The living conditions there are very poor. Sometimes five or more people would be in one little bedroom. We then proceeded to the White City Clinic. Places like these provide people with testing and medication. Something interesting that we heard there was that workers who treat the sick people need to be encouraged or rewarded from time to time or else they become “sick.” After this we visited a place called New Image Rover Crew. This was located in a lower middle class neighborhood. This place seeks out children who are orphaned, vulnerable, or the head of the family to provide them with care to grow up normally. They serve about 560 children a year. Some of the home based care programs that are offered are psychosocial care, emotional and spiritual support, counseling, and other development programs.

Our next visit was the highlight of the day. We drove to a house in the Tornado township. It was called this because one morning a long time ago, the residents woke up to find their neighborhood destroyed by a tornado. So anyways, the highlight was eating a traditional township meal. We all sat on crates in an unfinished house. Our meal consisted of chicken, chicken feet, a bean and maize paste, beef stew, a salad called chakalaka (just sound the word out, i’m sure it’s spelled differently), and kale. It was quite the experience, and a wonderful way to learn about the culture.

Our final stop of the day was at a rural shack community. We spoke with some of the community leaders and health care workers. We learned from them that the top three problems in their community are AIDS, crime, and underdevelopment (no running water, no bathrooms). Once again we heard that money is not necessarily the cure to these problems. They need professionals, jobs, and most importantly education. We could really notice the unemployment problem as we were driving around today. All kinds of people would just be sitting or walking around with nothing to do. Even if you did have a job, it was rough. Some people from the townships get up at 3 am to catch the train into the city, and then they have to work long days from 6 am to as late as 9 pm. Despite all of these problems, a majority of the people are optimistic and hopeful for the future. A quote from today at the hostel that sums everything up is “Many black people here are poor, but they survive with their positive attitude…and their music.”

We appreciate your continued comments, prayers, and thoughts.

-Justin Boldt

A typical hostel bedroom.


The group eating lunch at a township home.


The food at the township; minus the chicken foot.


The children at the rural shack community with Britton.

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