June 6, 11:13pm
You guessed it. It comes a point when romantic, reflective, simile doused journal/blog entries have to get serious and provide some hard facts for the folks at home. No better time to get down to the nitty gritty than after the first, or in the case, second day at work in your new job/internship. Hopefully ill have answered some of the readers burning questions: i.e. ‘where do you work?’, ‘what do you do?’ and also maybe a little of the ‘what does that actually look like?’. By the by, I’ll also, in later posts, get into some of the political and tribal history/ies of South Africa. I haven’t forgotten to discuss the unique political culture I’m in, not at all, I’m trying to understand it for myself with paper and pen before I publish ideas and thoughts (if you are interested in getting into this topic an, excellent read is Nelson Mandela’s autobiography: “Long Walk to Freedom”).
Where do I work? I work at a CBO (community based organization) called Seeland Development Trust located in the west cost of South Africa in a fishing town called St. Helena’s Bay, on the outskirts of the township of Laingville (which is where I am living). The organization was founded in 2006 by its current CEO and my supervisor Johan Lewin, with a vision of supporting communities in the promotion of alternative economic development initiatives. He has dedicated his life towards creating employment, building capacity and working within his community. Seeland has a sister organization, Masibambane, which is the charitable partner and major supporter of Seeland’s work, I’m sure to mention more about them in later posts. An amazing and unique feature of Seeland is that it is members based. In fact, through pooling the resources of its two hundred and nine members, Seeland was able to purchase a large sum of land on a farm. From what I understand this was possible due to land reform efforts of the post-appartheid government (as before apartheid only white South Africans could own farm land). As such the organization itself is perched a top a hill over looking Laingville and a few neighbouring townships. In the farm house office, three other women work with Johan to provide marketing, financial and administrative support. We work from 8am-4pm everyday from the farmhouse, where a few sheep are kept and all Seeland projects and pilot initiatives are carried out. In tandem with other community members, the organization has worked on income generating activities including brick manufacturing, tunnel farming, bag making, bean cultivation and is most recently involved in a wind farm project. The issue is the land they bought was once owned by a sand mining company which stripped it of all its top soil, so literally nothing can grow there but a few wild plants and cactus. However, because of its elevation and proximity to the ocean, the farm has a major renewable energy asset: wind. This is really exciting because they are working with an interesting model to make renewable energy a source of income for the community. They intend on selling the energy to the national grid and use the income from it to reinvest into local entrepreneurs, churches, schools and other CBOs. I recently came back from Costa Rica where my class and I visited another wind farm which sold the energy they produced directly to the surrounding rural community at a low, locked rate. The problem with that model is during low use periods the surplus energy generated by the turbines flows back into the national electricity grid without reimbursing the farm or community for its energy… I guess it gets complicated, lets not too far into that. The point is, this idea of Seeland’s is really interesting and avoids the surplus spill. I do foresee social complications arising from this, especially when it comes to managing perception of income vs community investment.
What do i do? hm. My official title is Renewable Energy and Community Projects Assistant. Im primarily responsible for developing a communications strategy for the organization and working on the wind farm project. Im incredibly interested in CED (Community Economic Development) since KEYS days, Ive been hunting for ways to merge communications, art, business and community. This position offers an amazing opportunity to test run the type of work I would like to do. Ive learned a lot about where I see myself already, which may be less on the ground than it has been. Feel free to visit Seelands current website to get an idea of the organization and the communications work I will be doing. It will likely consist of a new website, a few social media channels and some short edited clips for a youtube channel. I really enjoy that type of work, so ill share it when its done xo.
What have I done during the past few days? (in a nut shell)
- visited the ministry of culture and sport
- stopped by the local radio, hopefully will be doing an open mic with a local host
- met with a prominent farmer to talk about a new idea he has for aqua culture
- met a local fisherman (read past post for his story)
- attended a drug rehabilitation meeting
- got yelled at by a police officer for taking a picture of a sign