A journey to discover the people who change our world.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Talent to Bank On

It was an early meeting with Soloman. 8am in a small café in Cape Town. He was running off to a meeting, and I was running to catch a plane. But I was really glad we had a chance to cross paths.

Soloman is a warm, open, charismatic individual from the township of Khayelitsha, just outside Cape Town. He speaks with such enthuaism that the café nearly took flight. He told me about his ventures.

“I am working in a place which translates as ‘the place of knives’. When the place was just established somebody was stabbed and killed. Khayelitsha is a working class area with very little opportunities for people to have access to resources. And so we are working there to try and change people’s mindsets. To begin to look at the resources within and between themselves, instead of looking outside of the place. We can bring about change ourselves, and change can not be brought by depending on outsiders”.

To do so, Soloman has established a number of initiatives. He is running a ‘community college’ which supports community leaders and develop their skills. They look at models outside of South Africa and try to apply them to their own development. Models in Brazil, for example, or other regions in Africa.

Also, through the Community Networking Forum, he links a number of families together in a region, to share their resources and begin to rely on each other more. Every 150 houses are divided into four ‘family units’. Each family unit then has a different project; it could be brick making, it could be chicken rearing.

‘It is community building’ Soloman elaborates, ‘because currently the backyards are dividing people. People are in an ‘I’ and ‘myself’ mode, so we are trying to turn this around, and breakdown the barriers’.

Soloman also runs a community talent bank in which people can register their abilities. These are then pooled as needed, and skills exchanged. It may be as simple as making a cup of tea but the aim is to show the everyone has the ability to contribute to change in their community. There is even a restaurant which runs on talents- where people offer skills in return for a meal!

I did not have a chance to attend the restaurant, but would love to, one day.


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