By STEUART PENNINGTON
On September 12, about 200 Nottingham Road responded to an invitation to join a clean-up of the area.
They gathered outside the Farmer’s Hall, armed themselves with heavy-duty plastic bags provided by Nottingham Road Fuel and Gas and set off to pick up rubbish.
The clean-up covered a 40km area, from Balgowan to Fort Nottingham, Mount West, Rosetta and Nottingham Road, while farmers took responsibility for their verges.
Every road verge between the five villages mentioned was cleared of litter, 20 tons of it that was disposed of at the Mooi River refuse site by trucks donated for the cause.
How did this happen? Well, frankly, this community believes in itself, good will, sharing and mutual trust. The major impetus started in March with a group of concerned residents, the Nottingham Road Relief Fund (NRLF). They gathered to feed those worst affected by the onset of Covid-19.
It was real teamwork – farmers, donors and volunteers gathered at the Fordoun Crane Foundation Centre weekly to prepare food parcels and distribute them to needy families, particularly those worst affected by unemployment and the closing of schools.
Then, on August 16, if things couldn’t get worse, the eSthendeni informal settlement suffered a major fire. Many people lost all their possessions and their homes. The community, via NRLF, rallied, Spar donated and citizens contributed.
But truth be told, it all goes back to about eight years ago, when a group residents initiated Nottingham Road Refreshed, employed people to clean, cut verges and “refresh” the village.
For many years, the Nottingham Road Farmers’ Fund (NRFF), a voluntary association, has sponsored a range of community initiatives and supported community activists.
Then last year, an education NGO, Partners for Possibility, driven by local resident Karen McKenzie, became involved in eight marginalised schools in the area. Volunteers with business experience partnered with principals to assist with improving the schools to become functional places of learning.
My sense is that communities are working together more than we think. Journalists, now very thin on the ground, don’t have time to investigate these stories. They are, legitimately so, involved in exposing those who have abused the goodwill, sharing and trust placed in them by the voters and that process must be supported. Their role was hailed by President Cyril Ramaphosa in his weekly newsletter to the nation this week.
In SA, we suffer from a legacy of exclusion – we live right next door to each other, but know little about the challenges each other face. We can overcome that, as the Nottingham Road initiatives shows. If everyone has skin in the game, we can build a society in which our children can thrive.