The Nodars kindly introduced me to the Masiphumelele Library. Over the following weeks, I visited the library to work as a math tutor with Ikamva Youth’s participants, play chess, and help with a couple of websites. On my last Sunday in Cape Town, I visited Masiphumelele’s Anglican Church and was blown away by the Xhosa service and music.

Masiphumelele, also known as Site 5 in Fish Hoek, was originally an apartheid settlement for about 8,000 people. In recent years, it has expanded through informal housing to three times that population. A recurring problem is shack fires that sweep through the community, devouring the wooden shacks before fire crews arrive. I read about one of these fires the first time I heard of Masiphumelele in 2008, and they happen every year. The government’s response (to those whose shacks are formally registered) is to provide care packages, which include four wooden posts and five sheets of corrugated metal so that families can rebuild shacks according to the same fire-prone design. The most recent fire in Masiphumelele, at the beginning of May, killed one resident and left two thousand homeless. Seven of Masiphumelele’s Ikamva Youth participants lost everything they had.

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Bus Stop House Shop

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  1. […] The bus stop house shop initially struck me as being quite whimsical. Selling the shacks seemed like an interesting example of entrepreneurship and resourcefulness. The informal settlements comprised of these shacks are home to notable organizing (with Shack and Slum Dwellers International being one example). But slow delivery of basic services like roads, water, and electricity means that these matchbox dwellings are often deadly. […]

  2. Mary says:

    So glad you met up with the Nodars and have been in Masi!

  3. […] overqualified for their jobs in South Africa. Sam, a university graduate from Kenya who moved to Masiphumelele, was working as a house cleaner to pay the bills for his son’s medical care.  Many […]

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