Thirty-year-old Candice has lived in Hannover Park, a township in the Cape Flats, her entire life. She inherited the house her father built using recycled materials like cardboard, plastic and corrugated iron. The interior is in a desperate state though, with the carpet laid on bare sand, offering little insulation. Candice and her three children share a space of just 20 square meters and sleep in the same bed. Yet they place themselves among the lucky ones. Most of the houses in this area are not more than 10 square meters, highlighting the overcrowded nature of the townships.
With her home falling apart around her due to age, Candice must do what she can to make the best of her current living conditions – on rainy days she uses pots and pans to catch the water leaking through the roof. Toilets are located outside of the house and shared with neighbours (seven people in total using one toilet). The latter are almost never cleaned and the door has been damaged by the wind. Hygiene and privacy remains to be desired and due to the lack of plumbing there is no shower. To wash, Candice fills a bowl with water. For food, rice and potatoes are a daily staple; they are cheap and fill your stomach, but when Candice has no money, tea will have to do.
An oppressive atmosphere prevails in the townships. Candice never leaves her house without supervision, because the neighbourhood children, many of them part of gangs are constantly on the lookout for easy targets. The lock on the door is a simple padlock and the windows are plastic, so it is very easy to enter the house. It is also risky when Candice goes to bed, as a woman and three children can easily be attacked. The night is never quiet: many people abuse alcohol and drugs, a tell-tale sign of socio-economic degradation. Fighting is part of daily life for people and this is true even for children, who take their cue from their parents. Candice is also afraid that her children´s father will come out of jail and forces her to continue to be part of the abusive relationship.
Candice had been unemployed for two years. The government, however, provides a child support grant of R280 per child, which is barely enough to buy clothes, food and school equipment.
Candice participated in the Family Affairs programme in 2013, this is what she had to say:
‘Before joining Life Choices I had left my job to look after my three children. It is easy to get caught up in being a parent and forget about yourself. I felt isolated and powerless towards my situation. Family Affairs impacted my life profoundly. I had very little information on how to raise my children before I joined. The programme has opened my eyes and given me the knowledge and confidence I needed to be able to raise my children in a stable and loving environment. The sessions I attended gave me the opportunity to know more about myself as a person and more about my children needs. This has made such an impact in my life as now I can deal with situations more positively and I am beginning to make more friends. Life Choices also assisted me to go back to work.’
‘Today, I have the courage to take on leadership roles. I can see now that I am tougher than my challenges and I can cope with any difficulties that come my way. I want to use my experiences to engage with other people in my community and show them that they have the same strength too.’