WATCH | FEEL GOOD: Makeshift library a safe haven for Cape Town children living in gang hotspot

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  • In 2017, community activist Terence Crowster opened a library after noticing the low levels of literacy in schools.
  • The library is situated in a gang hotspot in Scottsville near Cape Town. 
  • When the library first opened, there were only 30 members. Three years later, they now have 500.

Terence Crowster is a problem solver.

When he realised that literacy levels among young people in Scottsville, Cape Town, were plummeting, he decided to open a library.

"I do a lot of leadership, soft skills and anti-bullying [training] at schools. So, the initiative basically started... when I saw that most of the kids in Grade seven, eight and nine couldn't really read and write," he told News24.

In 2017, Crowster opened a library in the hope that it would motivate children to spend their free time nose deep in books.

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"We want to connect young people to resources and resources to the young people," he explained. 

It's called the Hot-Spot Library and it's made from two shipping containers. The library is located in an area of Scottsville where gang activity is prevalent.

"A lot of people died at the corner where the library is situated - a lot of gang fights have taken place," said the 45-year-old.

Learning in a safe environment

When Crowster and his team opened their doors, only 30 children registered as members. Four years later, they now have more than 500 members. "This shows how much the children want to learn and want to be part of our activities," he said. 

Children also had access to counselling services, a variety of board games and sporting activities. 

"We want to create an alternative space for young people to come to. We want to create a positive vibe through the library."

Many young people in the area experience gang violence, substance abuse and bullying at home.

Crowster, who also runs the Restorative Youth Development NGO, said he wanted to create a place where young people could get help.

"Through our activities, we want to create a meaningful connection so that they can find their true potential and take care of themselves," he said. 

'I am able to read faster'

Now an avid reader, Joy van der Westhuizen told News24 that she's been visiting the library every day for the past three years. 

"I read books at the library, but my favourite activity is the art classes," she said. 

The Grade 6 pupil enjoys drawing dresses and people. 

"Coming to the library has helped me with my school work and [I am able] to read faster."

Seeing how the library has impacted Scottsville residents, Crowster wants to expand the programme to other parts of Cape Town.  

However, funding is still a hurdle.

"I want to give all these young people an equal opportunity to a better education; a better way of living; and create a better community."

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