By NYX MCLEAN
Some mornings when there is a smidgen of time between the call of my calendar and the relentless Zoom meetings that this COVID world brought with it, I can sit down to an honest to goodness cup of coffee at The Barista. It is one of my favourite coffee places because it has a good balance of caffeine (much needed by this caffeine-based lifeform), morning sun, and a flow of ideas. Oh, and I love their red cups.
I am sometimes there when Mo is working; that is the same Mo of “Fun and Health with Mo” who we featured in August. Mo is a person with many great ideas that are all aimed at improving the community. We usually speak about a top-of-mind issue, such as the resurfacing of the roads, running, food security, or waste management. Mo usually has a project idea he wants to run by me; we get to brainstorming within minutes – and, for me, it feels good to dust off a former corporate strategy brain for community work.
This week was no different. I sat down to a beautiful cup of life-giving juice (coffee), and at some point, Mo stopped by my table, and we got to chatting. We ended up speaking about two issues this week: how to address littering and hunger together; and why the Municipality is not making better use of social media.
Mo has this fantastic idea of pair up the cleaning of our town with feeding the hungry. Several people donate food from school kitchens or restaurant kitchens at the end of the day to feed the hungry. While this is happening, Makhanda continues to find itself faced with littering and waste management challenges. One means of addressing this could be encouraging those receiving meals to bring with them a plastic or paper bag of litter in exchange for their meals. This does call into question complex issues of labour, food security, and poverty. There should be space for these conversations. But at present, there are hungry people and a town that desperately needs to be cleaned.
We see excellent clean-up initiative happenings, such as the cleaning up of the park opposite Oatlands Prep and the Grey’s Dam clean-up initiative of last week. But it can be taken further, where we include those who may not have access to work, and while many cannot afford to pay people privately, they may be able to feed people. This is just one idea from coffee brainstorms with Mo.
On the issue of litter, we spoke about the High Court ruling on illegal dumpsites and how several people have been sharing in the comments on Facebook pages where there are other illegal dumpsites.
We wondered if anyone is taking note of this, in particular the Municipality. The Municipality would do well to begin using social media as an information source to respond to real-time issues facing this community. This does require a way of thinking of social media and using social media for good and in a way that respects the privacy of individuals (see POPI Act). Although, given the history of municipal issues in Makhanda, it would be amiss not to note that it requires a level of organising that we do not see from the Municipality. A level of organising that also centres the community and recognises the role the Municipality ought to play as the body entrusted with the care of our community.
As a community, we are good at identifying issues that need addressing and offering up solutions. The Municipality would do well to listen to us but also to encourage active citizenry. To support projects that wish to improve the community so that everyone can experience clean and safe conditions, long-term. Not this sudden uptake of change that occurs during election time, but something genuinely sustainable that allows does the work of establishing a sense of belonging and community among all Makhandans.
Who are you brainstorming solutions with? Are you participating in any community activities, whether it is in your street, or at a school, or community centre? How can we help you amplify the work you are doing? How can we help bring others into the conversation with you to help you with your work?
You’re welcome to join our news diary meeting to share your projects with us, ask questions of us that we can try and find the answers to, share story ideas with us, give us feedback, and observe our meetings.