I arrived in Franschhoek, South Africa in November 2007 at the
request of a young friend. He thought that I would be able to ‘make a difference’ and could help members of the abused and disadvantaged black community who were living in appalling conditions. Aids, drink and drugs were rife. Shanty towns of 10,000 inhabitants were hidden away
behind the mountains well concealed from the small group of international
multi-millionaire wine growers in the Franschhoek valley. With the support of the Trustees I decided that Project Spark
would give ten years to the poverty stricken residents of the
squatter camps of Tsotsjomeni, Mooiwater, and Langrug.
I began by persuading the local municipality to give us 1,200 square
metres of snake filled wasteland. With hard manual labour, we transformed this into a flourishing vegetable garden
which produced sufficient vegetables to supply two soup runs to the squatter camps. Water and drainage were in
short supply so piped water holes needed to be erected for the washing of clothes and humans! In the grounds of two
local primary schools we were able to create further vegetable gardens with their own irrigation systems. Under
supervision and as part of the “General Science section of the school curriculum, all nine to ten year old children
worked in the vegetable garden. Our pleas for a supply of electricity were eventually heard and as a result four
primary schools now have computer rooms and well stocked libraries.
We had now tackled malnutrition, poverty and education. Over the next
five years we moved on to focus our resources on the establishment of facilities to meet the continuing needs of the
squatter camps. We have been able to improve general health and to tackle the drink/drug related problems in the
camps. For victims of child abuse every day is a struggle for survival. In order to meet the needs of these children
the Trust provided funding to employ highly specialised social workers to offer daily therapeutic support and
appropriate care to children who have been raped and violated: children who have suffered daily abuse and associated
trauma and for whom the healing process will be lengthy. Thanks to the constant support, care and unconditional love of
the dedicated social workers the healing process has begun.
After ten years I have returned home to the UK. In the
squatter camps I have now witnessed the unfolding of happy and productive young lives; residents with a sense of belonging
and of empowerment, that I would never have believed to be possible when I arrived. I so often felt defeated and believed our
task of ‘making a difference’ to be impossible. But, determination, organisation, innovation and good leadership
transform the impossible into the possible. I thank those who have done so much, for all their support and their help.
Without it none of this would have been possible.
Sally Trench Director
- Sue Simmons, Project Spark, 3rd Floor
- 12 Gough Square
- EC4A 3DW