We want you, We want you, for the Ward 9 War Room

Where can you find AmaZulu, in every field, to discuss problems
Discussing how maintain children’s safety and well being?
In the War Room! Where Operation Sukuma Sakhe makes a Stand
In the War Room!
In the War Room! Can’t you see Ward 9 needs a Hand!
We want you, We want you, for the Ward 9 War Room

Please excuse my awful attempt at the Village people, but I kept hearing in the Navy during the meeting!

IMG_1294The political boundaries of South Africa are a befuddled source of amusement. KZN is one of South Africa’s 9 provinces, which is divided into one metropolitan municipality (eThekwini aka Durban) and 10 districts. Within districts we have municipalities. My district is composed of 5 municipalities, but soon to be 4 after the 2016 general elections as my municipality is set to merge with another. If that is not enough imaginary linear detail to make you dizzy, each municipality is divided into wards. My valley is composed of 4 wards, but physically I work in Ward 9.

Some South African wards, have regular meetings called War Rooms. Contrary to the name, there is not a massive map of the area to plot attacks (but my ward has a snazzy polka dot table cloth) nor are people belligerent in discussion. It is a place for people to gather and discuss problems in the area. Our area participates in a provincial program called Operation Sukuma Sakhe. The name Masisukume Sakhe is derived from a biblical quote where someone yearns to build a city that has been destroyed and is on the KZN provincial coat of arms. The program is intended to be all for communities to overcome health and social obstacles specifically related to HIV and TB (Tuberculosis). Since my org has funding for a child care forum, they are very active in the meetings and try to push conversations about the well-being of children. We had two of our carers present, my supervisor (who is the dynamic auxiliary social worker and manager who keeps the org running) and myself.

I was not lying about the polka dots!

I was not lying about the polka dots!

Granted I was the palest and only person in the room who was not fluent in isiZulu but I understood a bit of the discussion, like there was a 20 minute debate about gogos! My job was to maintain the register and I had a chance to see what organizations were represented. I am still amazed how people from the local clinic, school nurses, Department of Agriculture, Department Social Services, municipality administrators, the community at learn and one of the other non-profits took time away from their busy work days to discuss the concerns in Ward 9.

IMG_1289After 2 hours of debates it was time for lunch. Lunch was not the American platter of deli sandwiches but three trays of an eclectic mix of appetizers fitting for the Rainbow Nation: a array of samosas, tiny meatballs, spring rolls, and cheese onion turnovers with sweet chili sauce for dipping. Since it was my supervisor’s birthday I also made a beetroot red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting. In American leadership activities, I have noticed that once there is free food people dive in and the pizza or catering is scarfed down in minutes. Anyone who obtains a morsel is lucky (and most of the time I have been unlucky)! However at the Ward 9 War Room, people were daintily eating their lunch. Our supplies were limited but participants shared plates, cups, and adapted to my poor planning with the cake (I brought a knife but no serviettes/napkins, utensils, or plates…oops). Everyone had their fill of food (I ate more of the cheese and onion turnovers than I care to admit…when cheese is around I tend to go crazy these days) and there was still at least half a tray left over for the primary school children (the cake and drinks were dutifully consumed). Yet another example of South Africans unconsciously thinking about others.
It was a great outing and heartening to see people from different fields care about the children in the valley. I also was inspired by the school nurses who were never afraid to speak their mind, in an area where gender based violence continues to resurface in the needs assessment. I told my supervisor that would attend every War Room possible during my service and am excited to see what the Ward 9 representatives accomplish in the next meetings.

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