Thursday, 29 December 2011


Project Playground
The 10th of December a family day took place to end the semester and celebrate Christmas.
All trolls were invited. Their parents too.
Nearly 50 unregistered persons showed up!
Breakfast before taking two crowded buses to the beach.
Cheering & singing in the messy vehicle-qeueue. Great expectations. Joy.
The ocean under a sky weighted with rainy clouds.
Dance together. Staff, kids and parents.
Contagious motion spreading with the rhythm.
Lines with kids in bathing suites, ready to throw themselves into the water.
Humid, chilly air.
Complainless goose-bumps.
Pic-nic in the grass.
Ride back to the centre and gathering in the lightblue hall.
Songs, chilling, bonding, feeling of belonging.
In the end all the little ones were asked to line up beside the stage.
Christmas gifts.
One each!
Speechlessness. Total fuddle & wonderment; "What do I do with this?"
Analysis. Thorough study of the present. Realization.
Rip it open!
Madness! Astonishment! Happiness!

Thank you everyone for 2011.
Merry Christmas & happy new year.

Play on Wheels
I came to Cape Town to help the crew of Project Playground start up a brand new division, for children in Langa with disabilities.

Participants have been located, visited and immensely hugged.
Remarkable employees have been found and interviewed.
Other centres for disabled children have been seen and studied.
Equipment manufacturers have been researched, contacted and finally visited.
Laws have been inquired and most thoroughly ransacked.
Tons of templates and documents have been prepared, written and archived.
Tears have been shed as the sensation of injustice at times has been too much to bear.
People have proven that the dimension of a heart can really be limitless.
Fundings have been deeply desired, applied and fought for.

I left Cape Town knowing that Play on Wheels will be able to start in the begining of 2012.

Finally I just want to say.... 
To all the amazing trolls I have encountered...
To all the brave parents who never surrender no-matter-what...

To all the Project Playground employees who have overwhelmed me with their sincere wish to make things better and who over and over again have shown me that anything is possible...
To the board who gave me the chance to be a part of the team and the family...
To all the engaged people out there who in one way or another have shown their support and contributed to the opening of Play on Wheels...

Thank you. For everything.

 And just so you know....
We WILL remove "dis" from disability.

I will return to Cape Town.
...Until then.

/Josefin - a proud member of the "We love Africa"-club.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

This is the story of the "lost in time and space" charmer

A vague grin at afar.
The sweetest eyes.
An almost unnaturally beautiful face.
Always wearing flip-flops.

This is a tale of a four-year old boy with his head in another world.
He lives in a shack in Langa with his mom and two sisters.

His father.
He used to be a part of the boy's life, until his mother left him due to abuse.
Best friend with the bottle.
He beat him up regularly.
Holding him upside-down, shaking him, hitting him.
At night he still comes by their shack.
Knocking at the door.

His mother.
Loving her kids to death.
Stabbed by the father while she was expecting his child.
In front of the little boy.
The boy tries to defend his beloved mother from this man, telling him not to hurt her.
Report to the police. Restraining order. Noone cares.
No money.

His bigger sister.
Nearly completely paralyzed since birth.
Cannot speak nor hear.
Lays on the bed all day.
Got her teeth wiped-out when she was little, so she would not bite her tongue off.
The beauty of her face runs in the family.

He looses himself.
All of sudden the world cannot touch him.
As if all the people around him were passing by in slow-motion, circling his bubble with no hope of breaking it.
Staring into nothingness.
He does not see.
He does not hear.
He does not respond nor react.
He is someplace else, where noone can reach him nor disturb him.
Where are you?
Processing. Thinking. Trying to make sense out of it. Torment.

He sobs.
For no apparent reason or event, he goes to pieces.
Crumbling in silence. Not real cries, just soft sobs.
The kind of tears not shed to achieve comfort, but which fall because the heart they derive from is completely broken.
Where are you? 
Sadness of fear, lack of safety and pure raggedness.

His face melts everyone.
This kid smiles every now and then.
Especially when he hears the words I love you.

His tale. A mini-version of it anyway.

I love you

Friday, 2 December 2011

A date in the dust

Somewhere in South Africa.
In a gravel yard in a township.
Our eyes met.
We both froze. Glancing at each other.
The wind was blowing and the mouth filled up with crackle as soon as you opened it.
No adults around.
No shoes.
Smell of dirt and mold.
She suddenly approached me.
When she was standing right beside me she did the universal "pick me up" sign with her arms.
Come here.
Her face and my face at the same height now.
The weirdest thing just happened.

She looked at me.
She did not move a muscle.
Perplexed. Surprised. Stunned almost.
Studied & observed.
All of a sudden she raised one of her little hands.
Gentle touch.
She let her fingers stroke my face.
Everywhere (she even tried to poke the inside of my light eyes).
"What are you? I have never seen something like you up-close before."
We never took our eyes off one another.

She stopped.
Hand down.
A smile arose. It got so big it seemed it might even break her tiny cheeks.
Her mouth full of rotten teeth.
"You're approved."

A throw around my neck.
We simply stood there.
Just she and I.
Hugging in silence.
Letting time pass by.

An unknown troll.
The dust continued swirling around us.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

This is sunshine

Area of the temporary housings.
The zone which burned to the ground in the big fire of 2005.
The area that was rebuilt with the promise that it was only going to be "temporary", new houses were on the way...
It's been nearly 8 years now.
One of our Play on Wheels-girls is a shy and rather precautious person.
At least so it seemed.
The first time we visited her she would not let us come near her. She drew back.
Nothing new usually ever happens to her.

We have been to her place quite a few times now.
The lattest can only be defined as sunshine.
She started cheering already when she saw us in the doorway.
One of us sat down beside her and she took his hand.
Just like that!
The feel of contact and the light thrill of a visitor.
Variation from laying on the bed all day.

Pure sunshine.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Choke from laughing

This week we went out to Langa to see one of our Play on Wheels-kids to gather further information to our participants' charts.
A very hot and sunny day.
A girl. She is 18 years old and has mental disabilities as well as physical ones.
She does not talk nor walk, but she is alert.
We were 5 visitors coming to see her.

As we opened the door to the shack, the reek of mold, expired food and ingrained trash hit us like a wall.
The air inside had become an even thicker sludge due to the weather outside.
Shacks in the townships are constructions built up by four walls made of either metal plate or boards (with huge cracks between each plank) mounted together with whatever nail-alike material the carpenter can get his hands on.
One problem with these buildings, made in this way, is the temperature inside.
Very hot in summer and very cold in winter.

The home-shack of our girl is made out of metal plate.
Hence, there is no ventilation whatsoever.
Dirt everywhere. Walls. Floor. Ceiling. Furniture. Sheets. Kitchen-tools.

Her grand-mom, who takes care of her, told us about the big burn covering her chest.
A really nasty scar.
Years back she attended a care centre.
Someone accidentally poured a bowl of boiling porridge over her.

Our girl was laying on the bed farthest from the door.
She veiled behind a curtain to hide her blush as she heard us enter.
We approached her.
We sat down on the bed next to her.
We chatted with her.
We gave her a teddy-bear.
Eventually she was brave enough to hold my hand a bit.
Summa summarum; we gave her attention.

She could not stop laughing.
Actually she laughed so much she started choking from it.
The excitement of a bunch of people coming over, just for her, was more overwhelming than she could handle.
Interaction. Stimulation.  Fun. Curiosity. A little gift. Just for me.
She never wanted us to leave.

We'll be back.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

This is the story of the hyperactive sandwich-monster

This story is about a boy.
One of our trolls.
He is 7 years old and lives in Langa with his mother.

Chapter I: The accident
A few years back this kid was in a car.
The car was in an accident. He lost his eye sight in one of his eyes. Ever since, his non-functional eye is half-closed and he squints with the other one.

Chapter II: The abuse
The mother.
Alcohol. Floods of it.
She is a slave under it. Under the influence she tends to neglect and even totally forget about the existence of her son.
The neighbor.
He is an old man, 81 to be precise. He walks by to check things up.
Lingering. Observing.
Report to the police.
Nothing happens. Noone reacts. Noone bothers.
Still around the corner. Watching the little child play.
Still there. Just waiting...

Chapter III: The hunger
During our last excursion we noticed something odd in the cafeteria.
Something terrifying really.
All the kids arrived (soaked from the heavy rain outside) to have breakfast in the morning. They each got a sandwich and a mug of juice. Everyone was talking, cheering, laughing and eating.
Everyone except one.
He did not speak. He did not have time to grin. He did not see the people around him. He did not eat.
He devoured. He could not get the sandwich down fast enough. The way you only throw yourself over food if you have not had any. In a long time.
He grabbed all the leftovers from the kids around him and inhaled them without breathing.
He was starving.

Chapter IV: The hyperactiveness
This kid cannot stand still. He constantly runs around, hitting his playmates, yelling for no reason.
He is a real mess.
Out of control.
One can perceive he is broken. A complete wreck on the inside, doing anything not to let the memories catch up with him. The things he has seen, heard and felt.
Panic. Forget. Suppress. Destroy. Eradicate. Run. Panic.

Chapter V: The calm 
A movie was playing in our "cinema room". Everyone was quiet, enchanted.
He did not watch the movie. Instead, he was turned the other way, glancing at me in silence.
I sat on the floor in the corner, with two trolls in my lap.
After a while he closed in on me. Slowly.
Suddenly he sat next to me and without a word he took my hand.
He put his little head against my arm and held me so hard.
In that instant he calmed down. Almost like a collapse of pure peace.
He did not move an inch, all he did was breathe in the dark.
A moment of serenity.
Just hold me.

His story. A piece of it.

He always smiles when he arrives.
Every single time.

Thursday, 17 November 2011


All gone.
The ancient white and orange wall color in the big hall where we have Project Playground gatherings is just a mere memory now.
Light-blue all over.
A continuation of the sky (which is almost visible through the dirty windows).
A South African construction company of 17 people did the job. Instead of having a classical Christmas closure with a big fancy dinner, they volunteered to buy paint, bring all the necessary equipment and come out to Langa themselves to improve the feel-good for the kids.
Simply amazing.
Some of our musicians had a session with the painters and taught them a bit of drums and how to dance.
Constructors in the spotlight.
Pure fun for everyone. Wonderful, really.

The stage

Quite a few small spectators came to visit during the day to see what all the fuzz was about and to make sure that the workers in white overalls actually did their job!
...And clearly, they were thrilled to see them perform...

During the lunch-break the overallers threw a bbq (braai, as they call it here) in our sunny "square".
Hot dogs & sodas for everyone!
By everyone I mean; the kids at place, their own people and all the Project Playground staff.
Instant coffee with bagged milk in paper cups for the big ones.
Lollipops for the little ones.
...And soccer for the ones with some run in their legs.

Leave a trace.
Handprints of all the utilisers of the hall in black on the (now skyish) pelars.
Almost immortality.

For your time, your effort, your open minds & those huge hearts of yours. 
Thank you.


Tuesday, 15 November 2011


Quiet now. Listen.
It's the ocean. It's wild today. Unstoppable out there.
The breeze is cool and the sun is shining.
23 degrees, no humidity whatsoever and the sky is clear.

I spoke to a black guy just now. A most thoughtful young man.
Amongst other things, the discussion about blacks and whites and race came up.

In the end he raised his eyebrows at me and said "I do not want to be below you".
And without thinking, I replied "and I do not want to be above you".
Simultaneously we asked out loud: "Why can't we just be the same?"
Raising smiles.

The deepblue color of the ocean kind of hurts you with its beauty.
The waves have gone completely crazy now.

Sometimes this world is just so....

Thursday, 10 November 2011

This is the story of the blind singer

We took the car to a centre for disabled children today.
The place was lovely. The staff was energetic and  passionate and the kids were all cheery. Therapy rooms and toys everywhere.
We were shown around and got quite a few chances to meet some charming little creatures!
Such an inspiration!

This centre runs a concert every December, where the kids are the stars. 
We were invited to see the show this year.
In one of the therapy rooms there was a huge wall covered with photos of the children, taken during events from the past.
The staff started grinning, telling stories about this one remarkable girl...  

This is how the story begins.
Her story. The blind singer.
A young girl. Due to her disability, she was literally thrown away by her parents when she was very small.
All alone and left to die, the animals fed on her.
They ate her eyes.
She lost her sight, but was lucky enough to be spotted and saved.

This child could sing like a Goddess. She was the star of the December-concert.
Sing to us.
Apparently the combination of her smile and her voice had the capacity to knock out an entire crowd! She would just glow.
One moment of perfection. Nothing had existed before and nothing will exist ever after. Only now. Right now.

She passed away.
The pneumonia she got due to her living conditions took her.


This is in memory of a chanter who still makes people smile.
Sing to us.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Black eyed troll

One of those perfect skies without a cloud in sight.
Project Playground mansion.
We could see at a distance she was playing solitary.
Something clearly subdued her. She was troubled and withdrawn, as if caught in slow-motion.
Someone had taken a punch to her tiny face. A really nasty one, her left eye was black.
One of us picked her up, held her and just hugged her for a while.
She was still and did not speak.
As we asked "Who did this to you? You can tell us. It's OK" she lowered her little head, looked away and merely whispered:
"I am not ready to tell. But I know I can..."

The world of this little troll had stopped turning.
One ugly weekend in the township.

The rest of the world just kept turning.

Monday, 7 November 2011


We had a staff-day last week. A really good one, I might add!
You know, with team building exercises, various discussions about how to improve the workplace, bonding and in the end a well-deserved coffee break.

During one of the "team exercises" one guy said to all the others:
We should be more grateful. 
I have worked in other places and I can tell you it's so different.
Here they listen. We can suggest what we want to do on our staff-day, we can tell our ideas about how to work and they will listen to us. What we say matters.
....Guys, we should be more grateful.

Because at work your opinion matters.
Because your boss values your ideas.
Because someone actually listens to you.

I mean, gratitude is always a good thing...

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Teach me. About love...

One afternoon in Langa I ended up having a (very!) long conversation with a middle-aged, black man.
We spoke about injustice, living conditions, dreams, hate, hope. About life, really.

There was one piece in particular in what he said that I cannot forget.
He spoke of the "black culture in townships".
I do not remember the exact words, but they went something like this:
People are hard and brutal to each other. To be tough you should be cold, powerful and unreachable.
We compete and we put each other down.
And the young ones.... They do not matter! We do not see them, talk to them nor do we listen to them. They should just be quiet and obey. We don't know them!
The young ones....
And then they grow up to be exactly like us! Frustrated, sad and cold on the inside.
This is just the way it is. This is the way it has always been done.
We do not know anything else. This is the circle.
Then you guys come here.
You show that things can be different.
You show us another way. The other way.
And we want to learn!

If you want to teach us.
Teach us. About love...

As it darkled we drove home through the streets of the township.
I watched the people wandering by out there. I wondered what their stories were. Each and every one of them with a different story.
I could not get the man's words out of my head.
They had gone straight to my heart.
His sincerity, his frustration, his humbleness, his concern & open arms.
I smiled and whispered to myself quietly:
"You have no idea, do you? You got no clue how much YOU just taught ME.
About love..."

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

This is her story

I will tell you a story now.

It's about a girl.
A girl I met when we were out in Langa visiting the contemplated kids of Play on Wheels.

We opened the door to a shack where a young girl lives with her family. She is 7 years old and was severely burned due to a fire in Langa when she was just an infant. The fire burned her head so badly she almost lost all ability to move her legs and to speak. Nowadays she's just laying on her bed all day. But this little child, cheez, does she have the twinkle in the eye & a passion for drawing!
Anyway, her mother was not home when we got there, so we started chatting with her quick older sister. She was very polite, carried a laundry basket and wore a torn whitish shirt.

This story is actually not about the 7-year old child, it's about this go-ahead sister of hers.
This girl knew everything about her little sister. Her birth date, her health condition, her past, her passions, her allergies, EVERYTHING.
We took notes and in the end we closed our notepads and asked "So... What about you?".
She replied that after school she looks after her siblings, cooks, cleans the house, buys groceries and does the laundry while her mom is working.
"I'd love to help children with disabilities as well. Is there some way I could be involved...?".
Money. Get food for the family.
We asked her if instead of working for us, she might like to join Project Playground and just simply play.
Caught by surprise. Eyes wide open. Bling! Huge smile. F-U-N!
She put down the laundry basket, got caught by a moment of lightness and started puzzling about how to make it fit with her duties.

As we left the shack she stood in the doorway. Silence.
After walking a few meters I turned around and I saw her still standing there, glancing at afar with a soft grin.
It seemed she was dreaming a bit. Imagining herself just having a blast.

I will not tell you her name.
But I will tell you she's 14 years old.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Excursion with influx

Excursion with the "Below-8" kids of Project Playground today.
64 little trolls on the loose! ;)

Before I tell you what we did during the day I will tell you what happened before...

So, previously:
Registrations were handed out to all parents, just a few days before the actual excursion was about to take place.
EVERYONE applied. EVERY SINGLE kid! The parents practically threw their kids at us!

I was stunned. I mean, this should not even be possible! Some kid MUST have other plans....
But noone was pre-booked. Because they all live in a township. In such a place you find: gravel, dust, small shacks, trash, asphalt and absence of money (thus also toys). What "stimulating weekend acitivities" can the parents come up with to offer their children under those conditions?

Now, today's events:
Soaking rain.
Breakfast in the Project Playground cafeteria in Langa. 
In the form of letting the children watch a cartoon in our new "cinema room". This room is (at most) 4x4 meters, with a recently donated TV and not even cushions to sit on. We all cozily squeezed on the floor with towels (and whatever other "coverage" we could get our hands on) preventing as much as light as possible from slinking in through the windows. They loved the surprise!
In your face Murphy! 
Roadtrip with our troll-army to a park near the ocean.
They were ecstatic just to get out of Langa, just to sit in a bus really. In the middle of the park premises there was a huge green lawn.
Shoes off everyone! Hurry! Run! Feel the grass tickling under your feet!
They were caught by some kind of innocent and complete happiness I had never witnessed before. Like nothing in the universe could rob them of this moment of perfection. You might ask yourself if there is a limit to how good it can feel to simply lay down and perceive the softness below you and the sky above you with all that you are. The answer is NO, today I saw IRL that there is not.
Pic-nic lunch.
Play under the sun. 
Go go go!
Roadtrip home.
With a snack-fruit to go and one of those all-through true smiles on their little faces.

Friday, 28 October 2011

I am invisible

I have got to know quite a few black friends here.
Something strikes me when I spend time with them and talk to them about their living situations, their expectations and how things function....
They are a bit too submissive. Too oppressed. Too accepting. Too faded. Too indifferent. Too tired on the inside.

Then it hit me that this people has been mistreated, abused, looked down on and despised since... FOREVER!

They do not know what equality feels like, because that has never existed for them!
They do not know what it means to be taken seriously by the government, because noone has any record of that ever occurring!
They have no idea how it would be to have the same life prospects as "the others", because honestly, they do not!

With all this inside of you....

Why should you feel that you, only because you are you, matter?
Why should you think that this time someone up there will actually listen to YOU?
Why should you believe that it can be, and even more, ever will be different?
Why should you stand up for yourself?
Why should you fight for your rights?

Of war. Of fighting for justice. Of trying. Of being put down. Of retrying. Of nothing happening.

Of people not caring.

Of not being seen...

Monday, 24 October 2011

Feel the wind on the face

I am still in a state of chock.

This afternoon we went out to Langa to visit the families whose kids we want to engage in Play on Wheels.
The living conditions of these families. And of the disabled children.... Unimaginable.
Some of the kids could communicate, others could not. Some could move, others could not.
Some of them smiled at us (most of them!), others were a bit shy and looked away.
Some things they did have in common though: they were all dirty, cabined up inside and neglected by society, they had no dignity of life whatsoever and no idea how the world looks outside of their four crumbling walls.
The stench in some of the houses was unbearable while the love of the caring relatives was overall heartbreaking.

I cannot in words describe what I have seen, smelled and felt today.
I do not think that such misery can be contained by any vocabulary.
One would hope that it can not....

Imagine giving these children attention & stimulation by having fun and just letting them feel the wind on their face.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Hunt down for facilities

We just had a very positive meeting with the manager of St Francis regarding Play on Wheels. There is the practical detail of having somewhere to put all our new kids when they come...
Anyway, he was very optimistic about being able to give us more time at the facilities of "Project Playground Mansion".

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Color obsession/obliviousness

People here have a thing for race. Or color, would be more accurate.
When someone talks about a person, it is always added what color this person has.
Like "my white classmate" or "a black guy I work with".

It's like racism is so put into everyone's head that it is not a choice to think differently.
It's just "natural" for everyone that the whites eat at the restaurants and that the blacks serve them.
Noone here seems to question the absurdity in the concept that "one color" walks this street while "another color" takes another one.

Obsession at the one hand. Obliviousness on the other.

Friday, 14 October 2011

First impression

I arrived to Cape Town yesterday. My first time in Africa.

I visited Yolanda at the Red Cross children's hospital and I was struck by everyone's inexplicable positive thinking. And their smiles. But also the horrible conditions of both the hospital and the children!

I went to see the centre of Project Playground in the afternoon.
Witnessing it IRL just kept me thinking: "It is possible to make a difference. Anything is possible!"
The children.
All thrilled to meet and hug a "new playmate" (me!) and just overall grateful to get the chance to play football or dance together. And feel safe for a while. Sanitary disasters, wrecks for a home and torn little shoes.... Small people so cheerful and yet living in such a misery!
The staff.
All being there for the kids.
Giving them a safe place where they can feel that they matter in this world and a decent meal before they go home at night. Trying to help them build a better future for themselves by changing their self-esteem. Encouraging the parents to bond with the kids.

A numerous amount of smiling persons said this phrase to me yesterday...
This whole place makes you feel it, really.

"Welcome to Africa"