“(It is not) not only an outstanding example of a professional community-driven childcare and education initiative, (but) a far greater vision of a bottom-up social and environmental transformation strategy already unfolding.”
These are the words of Malika Ndlovu, one of the jury for the 5th Deutsche Bank Urban Age Awards (DBUAA), describing the resilient and visionary project of this year’s winner, Mothers Unite. Chosen by an independent jury from a pool of 254 entries and a shortlist of eight finalists, Mothers Unite is a testimony of a small group of people that are reshaping their physical context and social environment, claiming their right to municipal resources and working towards promoting safety and dignity in their community.
Mothers Unite was founded in 2007 in a mother’s home in Lavender Hill, Cape Town. The project was chosen on the basis that it most benefitted local residents through an improved urban environment. Mothers Unite provides a safe haven from the gangsterism, drugs and violence that are part and parcel of street and home life in the area. Three afternoons a week, in an infrastructure village in the grounds of the City’s Seawinds Multi-purpose Hall, 120 children between the ages of three and 15 are provided with alternatives such as storytelling, computer literacy, food garden training, art therapy, sports and play. Built with donated shipping containers, the village is made up of a library, kitchen, office, sheltered area, playground and food garden.
The Mothers Unite project addresses the family unit and encourages family participation and a shared commitment to community development, providing a support base for the family and a safe place for children to play, explore and develop. Through this project children have truly transformed, improving in social interaction and school performance.
In his address at the awards ceremony Dr. Josef Ackerman, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Alfred Herrbausen Society, expressed his excitement over the potential that all 254 entries, from around Cape Town, holds to develop unique solutions to South Africa’s most pressing problems. He shared that cities are an expression of civilization, like writing and religion – we shape our cities and our cities are shaping us. Within this context, The DBUAA’s aims to develop a grammar of success for cities, and one cannot establish this grammar without acknowledging the experience of grassroots projects that are designed by the people, not the urban planners or architects.
Mothers Unite plans to use the R750 000 prize money to obtain further educational resources for after-school programmes, revamp the playground, add to their toy and book libraries and purchase better kitchen equipment and nutritional ingredients for the children’s meals. They would like to buy a vehicle to overcome their biggest operational obstacle and be able to offer a small stipend to volunteers who have worked tirelessly. The funds will also allow the organisation to purchase a data projector, 4 mannequins, and course stationery for 200 adult and early child Emergency First Aid Response trainees, contribute to 160 computer literacy courses and 80 home garden start-ups to broaden their great work in Lavender Hill.
This group of women are bringing together a community to unite to create a brighter future for their children. These worthy winners are truly transformational leaders in their community, and will no doubt inspire others towards action in seeking justice, social change, safety and dignity for their own communities.
For more information go to their website: mothersunite.org.za