Residents turn derelict plots into safe spaces

2020-02-25 06:01
This plot was a dumping site for more than 30 years until community members transformed it into a food garden. PHOTO: Kaylynne bantom

This plot was a dumping site for more than 30 years until community members transformed it into a food garden. PHOTO: Kaylynne bantom

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Two adjacent plots in Pope Street, Salt River that used to be an eyesore, infested with rats and waste, have now been converted into a play park for children and a food garden for the community. This is thanks to an initiative by Progress, a non- profit organisation (NPO) based in the United Kingdom that builds child-safe spaces for children to learn.

The NPO arranged for funding from the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) and joined hands with the community and Baz’Art, an organisation that transforms spaces through urban art. Baz’Art identified the plots that needed to be renovated.

Clean-ups started just over a year ago with the help of eager residents. The official opening of the food garden and play pitch took place on Saturday 22 February.

Simon Gahartey, founder of Progress, says: “We didn’t hesitate when Baz’Art and the community contacted us to get involved with this project. We pitched to Unicef and Baz’Art with regard to a design and community engagement. Everything was accepted, everything had been blessed by the community, they offered us a space and we’ve turned this place around.”

Alexandre Tilmans, founder of Baz’Art, says this was a community project. “We helped residents clean up the place, more than 30 ton of trash were cleared from here. That helped community members to start their garden in a quicker space of time.” Artists from Baz’Art used their creative skills to transform the once grey and unattractive walls into a colourful array of flowers and art.

Warda Rahim, chair of the Salt River Residents’ Association, says: “All of us were sick and tired of seeing this dump. We had rats running out here and there was a terrible stench. To see this space transformed is amazing.” She says a few youngsters started cleaning the second plot because they indicated that they would like to see it being transformed into a soccer pitch for the children.

Fay-yaad Levi, a young resident, says he and his friends used to play on the pitch before it became a dumping site. “When we heard that there are plans to have the area renovated my friends and I were eager to pitch in, the little ones in the area inspired us because we want to see them play on this pitch where we used to play,” says Levi.

Zahid Badroodien, Mayco member for community services and health, congratulated the community for taking ownership of their area. He says: “Often people complain about what the City is not doing, but through the power of partnership which we see here driven by the community they have made something ugly into something beautiful.”

Badroodien encouraged other communities to follow suit.

Ryan Fortune, founder of Rainbow Warriors International, who aims to support projects that help small-scale farmers, says his organisation will focus on the ongoing sustainability of the project by doing community workshops.

Ameer Stemmet (11) says he is proud and excited about the soccer pitch. “Now we don’t have to walk far to the soccer field anymore, I cannot wait to come play here every day with my friends,” says an elated Stemmet.

The plots are now a welcoming site and provide a beacon on hope to the residents.

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