Forging a new path

By Richard Welch, South Africa, 2017-18 Diploma course

At the first TFT in residential phase of our course I said to Mike Abrams: “I am confronting my own myths: Was I really an activist? Did I use Freire’s methods, albeit sometimes unknowingly? Did I live the method as Peter says?” Peter Rule the Freirian scholar wrote his thesis on the work I (we) did and has discussed it in several books and publications. I left his thesis at Kleinmond. The whole thing is fraught with loneliness because I am trying to rethink my past in the present. So that was the prime reason for my coming on the Development Education course. I am nearly seventy and it might seem presumptuous of me to embark on a new journey, but that’s what I am doing although full of trepidation. What I learned at TFT, though, is that the thing that seems impossible and seeming insurmountable becomes possible as you begin to do it. Also, I recalled how in the Apartheid era, we were not expecting the politicians to put things right – it couldn’t be put right. We just got on and started to create the New World in the Old, and I realized that I was becoming bitter because of the powerlessness of expecting always the answer from above. I had a longing to meet fellow Africans, and to know their struggles and triumphs, and it all came together when I attended the course.

The challenge I am facing right now is the restructuring of my life so as to be able to do the Development Work I have trained for. I don’t intend to close my business ‘Kalahari Books’ for two years, still I have to set myself up as much as possible in terms of general health and time so as to move myself into, and begin, the development project I propose to do eventually.

To get my hand back in, I began by working in The Hillbrow Theatre Project and The Home of Hope, both inner city Johannesburg NGOs, and I will be working with the Girls at Home of Hope to establish a library at their House in Cyrildene. This is not that easy because the Director runs, of necessity, a very tight ship and I must fit in with her requirements about times, etc. or not do the work at all. But my intention is to start a Hyperlocal News Medium here in Yeoville Johannesburg with a group of young people. I have done the Cardiff University FutureLearn Course in Community Journalism and plan to use that material with the young people.To quote: “Community journalism – or hyperlocal journalism as it is sometimes called – is usually taken to mean news about a small geographic area (…) It can have an important role to play in ensuring voices and viewpoints, under-reported by mainstream media outlets, are heard.” I used the Training for Transformation methodology before, but under very difficult circumstances and without ever having an overview of what exactly it was. On our course I acquired attention and listening skills to allow things to move forward by being open to the community; so I think I am bringing together our course with my past learnings.the experience of TFT can hardly be described. I was a person at the end of my tether; separated forever it seemed from what had really given me meaning. My son was grown up and I couldn’t be any more so intimately involved in his exciting life. I saw the young people in the street where we live and my heart went out to them, and I know I can relate to young folk in a different way, and I have. Doing the Diploma Course, the demands and the setting and the healthy environment put me on another level and brought back my lost talents. I still have more travelling to do on this path, and it really seems so scary, but I did take the plunge coming to Kleinmond and I can keep doing it.