The only way community organisations can make a difference is by working as a team. And you can’t make a difference swanning in and out of communities giving handouts so that you can look good on social media. This was the message at the launch of the new offices of victim empowerment organisation Community Cohesion at the Ocean View multipurpose centre clubhouse last week.
“We have a lot of people doing a lot of things. We’re duplicating – we need to know who’s doing what and to make sure we are doing the right things,” said ward councillor Simon Liell-Cock, at the opening on Thursday October 6.
“Conflict between organisations needs to stop. There needs to be a communication forum. We have to work as a team to make a difference in the community. We need to get to know each other.”
“Perhaps with more of us tackling problems in the community together, we could come up with better ways of being successful,” said Community Cohesion’s area manager Andrea Turner. “Ideally it would be best if the community decided what they need help with and become the change. Our roles could be to help with the process – not to be the solution, but to give the community’s solution a hand up.”
“People are doing things because they feel, ‘Ag shame,’” said Mr Liell-Cock. “It’s the wrong thing to do.”
Agreeing with him, Community Cohesion director Bron Moore said people wafting into communities, giving handouts, taking photos of themselves and then leaving was “poverty porn”, adding: “It’s so insulting that poverty is something to be celebrated on Facebook.”
Community Cohesion is a non-profit organisation working in partnership with the Department of Social Development. They work with people affected by violence and crime – whether currently or in the past – and Ms Moore emphasised that we have all in some way been a “victim”.
She added: “Violence and crime has an impact on every single one of us – we are living with it every single day … You don’t have to be an immediate victim.”
Community Cohesion’s mission is to provide psycho-social support, education and training so that people can make their own plans to break the cycle of violence and poverty – whether it be intellectual, emotional or physical.
To do this, there comes a stage, said Ms Moore, where the counsellor or social worker says: “Okay, enough now. Enough of being addicted to your drama. You’ve got to find a plan. Is what you are doing now working? No. So do something else. We tell you your rights and options. It’s scary – people haven’t made fundamental choices before. Now you’ve got to think, make choices, really have an impact on the issues of your life.”
Community Cohesion’s guiding principal is, “Not for, but with.” Ms Moore emphasised that helping the community didn’t work if people were going to be passive.
“They have to walk a path with the social workers or counsellors.”
Clients learnt what their rights and responsibilities were and Community Cohesion walked with them, helping them to claim those rights and responsibilities so that they moved beyond victimhood.
Community Cohesion has been in Ocean View for four years, based at Marine Primary and Ocean View Senior Secondary, but found that it was mostly having “naughty children” referred to them, which is not its mandate. So, last month, it moved upstairs in the clubhouse at the Ocean View multi-purpose centre. It also has offices in Simon’s Town, Fish Hoek, Masiphumelele and Woodstock, with its head office in Hout Bay. It also works with refugees who have fled their home countries.
“We do drop-ins but we prefer appointments, as we want people to own this, not just lurching from crisis to crisis,” said Ms Moore. “If the appointment is at 10 and you get here at 20 to 11, then you have 10 minutes left. It’s part of people owning the process.”
Ms Moore said the organisation was about to introduce programmes, Boys of Honour and Men of Honour, into Masiphumelele. They had worked well in Imizamo Yethu, Hout Bay.
The programme for the boys is for those under 13, in conflict with school, doing some sort of crime. “The end game is to get them back to school,” she said.
The Men of Honour is a 12-week programme “to get them to really mentor, not to meet anger with anger, violence with violence, not to be reactive,” she said.
Community Cohesion also runs workshops bringing people up to date with the latest legislation affecting domestic violence, child and elder abuse.
Community Cohesion offers therapeutic social workers, counselling and emotional support for individuals, families and couples and gives practical advice and assistance. There are no charges for its services. To make an appointment, phone 079 386 4384 (Ocean View); 074 943 2995 (Masiphumelele) or 081 817 5255 (Simon’s Town and Fish Hoek).