I remember in 1995 when the first tin shacks went up in the Joe Slovo informal settlement not far from what is now Johannesburg University (formerly Rand Afrikaans University). It made headlines as local residents fought against a ‘squatter camp’ going up in the empty field in their neighbourhood. Fifteen years and 20,000 residents later, Joe Slovo remains unelectrified with limited services, although it does have running tap water and toilets.
We brightened the lives of 40 mainly granny-headed families who use candles or paraffin (kerosene) wick lamps for lighting with Lifelights. They all feel nervous and stressed about the use of candles and paraffin because of how easily they can tip over and start fires. The cramped makeshift houses are tight next to one another like rabbit warren, with very narrow walkways. The walkways in most parts are covered by carpet under-felt. This is the first time I’ve seen this in an informal settlement. Fires are common resulting in dire consequences, sweeping through the settlement at terrifying speed.
Our partner organisation, Children of Fire, which does heroic work with victims of fire, identified the beneficiary families and we conducted a training session at a school outside Joe Slovo’s perimeter. Accompanied by our project manager, Chhavi Sharma and intern researcher Aalyia Sadruddin, after the distribution we visited with a couple of the grannies in their homes.
This is is 62-year-old granny and former domestic worker, Eveline, who is one of Joe Slovos residents who lives in the centre of the settlement. She’s seen many fires over the years and was very pleased to have a Lifelight.
by Kristine Pearson