Week Three: Adjusting to life in Joburg

            Now on my third week, I am beginning to get into the swing of things here in Johannesburg. I have successfully mastered public transportation, getting to and from the office without incident (almost always); I even took my first Tuk Tuk this week! Things at the office are progressing as well. I have been researching the previous amnesty and human rights hearings which were conducted in the ‘90s. My job is to identify the groups of victims were left out of the process. I am specifically looking for the case of the young man who came into the office last week seeking closure for the death of his father. However, the amount of cases I must navigate is rather large so it has been slow going. Still, we are hoping to use this research to initiate legal action on behalf of those victims who were never given reparations from the government, a lofty goal.

            In addition, each week I have the opportunity to represent Khulumani at different seminars discussing issues relevant to Khulumani’s goal of helping individuals throughout South Africa. This week I attended a conference hosted by Doctors Without Borders, featuring speakers from all over Africa.  The conference began with an introductory speech by the organizer here in South Africa, and would you believe I actually knew the speaker??? I know less than ten people in all of South Africa and one of them not only is in charge of Doctors Without Borders in South Africa, but led the conference I was attending. I had met this gentleman at a dinner party and he had told me that he worked for MSF. I did not make the connection until I saw him speaking: Medecin Sans Frontieres (MSF) is Doctors Without Borders. I probably should have made this connection sooner… Nonetheless it was still a pleasant surprise to know someone at the conference!

            On Friday, I was included in a new collective headed up by a gentleman named Roger Layton. Mr. Layton has created what he calls the Xtown model of information-based economic systems. His theory is that the only way to bring billions out of poverty is to enable them to become self-sustaining economically. This must be done at the level of critical mass within the community, rather than at the individual business less. He wants to create community-buying groups which will enable families to buy in bulk at significantly cheaper prices and keep money in the local economy.

            This is a long-term project and we are hoping to begin as soon as possible. Our work this next month will be to conduct surveys throughout various regions to determine typical family food expenses and the most common products purchased. Given the significant levels of poverty throughout the country, we are hoping to stimulate local economies while at the same time ensuring both affordable and nutritious foods to all families.