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February 06, 2007

ISSUE: An outing with the City Social Development office

We met with the City of Cape Town to learn about their Smile-A-Child program for street children. At our meeting with the city councilperson and his staff people, it quickly became apparent that they feel pretty frazzled not only about the homelessness situation but also the scattered NGOs, social service agencies and individual do-gooders throughout town. They are desperately trying to coordinate groups (and funding), but like many governments they are both bogged down in bureaucracy and hopelessly removed from the actual situations.

This became almost embarrassingly absurd when they took us to some of their prize projects. We drove out to a township to see the metal container that the City donated for the community to have a kitchen… it was pretty sad. And Chantal, the City development woman, was so proud to show us the sewing machines that they donated so that the women could make an income from douvets, but the women had no idea where to actually sell them. Instead, the douvets piled up. Chantal said cheerily, “oh just call me and I’ll set you up.” We weren’t convinced.

The thing that really topped it off for me was that Chantal didn’t know the names of any of the community leaders that they were supposedly working with. Oy vay.

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