7 April 2009: Cato Crest

Shacks no more than two feet apart with small narrow mud-packed paths between them. Garbage seemingly thrown out the window. Piled so high. Children in bare feet running around. So many children! One boy and his small skateboard would walk up the big hill and then with a push from his friends would go sailing down with his flip-flopped feet dragging to steer. Screaming with joy. His friends running down after him. A dark one-room home. A trophy set on a beat up table as the prized possession in a prominent spot. Two men laying in the bed, cell phones in hand, and radio blaring. Children carrying five gallon water buckets on their heads navigating the slippery slopes. Looking so graceful at 12 years old. Shanty homes as far as the eye can see and in all directions. Some teetering on the edge of a slope; one mudslide and it would be decimated.

This is the Africa that my heart longs to commune with. These are the people who give me a new perspective on life. Their smiles are so full of joy – simple joy reflecting a life of ‘nothing’, but hope shines so bright. This place is far from beautiful. But beauty comes from what these people make of their situation. Beauty comes from within.

Cato Crest is land that was originally used for farming (owned by a man named “Cato”). After that it was set aside for indentured servants. Now it is home to resettled families. We were there with 2nd year nursing students at UKZN. This was their community health outreach/community assessment project. Today, they were surveying families to determine the needs of the community. Highest ranking areas of need were TB, HIV, and children, however one man wanted us to fix the sanitation problem. After walking around the community polling families, we gathered together to discuss an area of focus and interventions.

A South African Perspective:

“A suburb of mud and timber and tin, built with the soil of the earth and the rubbish of the city. Dwellings are nailed together with planks of packing-case wood, old corrugated iron, flattened metal and sheets of plastic to keep out the rain. Brown, earth and rust are the colours, made subtle by dust. Huddled amongst the trees, the mud walls glow in the early morning sun. Inside the shacks there are cosy nooks, carpets and tables, beds and chairs, cutlery and hooks – places where people sleep and talk, and where babies are bathed. Outside, crowds of people walk the busy road. Collectors of cast-offs trundle battered supermarket trolleys along littered gutters…”

–excerpt from Light Music by Rick Andrew in Durban in a Word