Friday, July 22, 2011

The last step...

16 February 2011 - I was ready. It was time to take on whatever the New Year had to throw at me. But was I ready for this? No. Well at least not for that moment when I realized what I had actually got myself into.

First came a spurt of excitement for the new and challenging community project. But looking back I would not use the word challenging lightly. However, it was a chance to work with people, build partnerships and had the potential to truly help the community from ground level up. I was eager to get started, but even with all of this, the magnitude of what we were trying to accomplish was at the back of my mind and niggled at my doubts.

“Let me get this straight”, I thought to myself, we going to be working with the Umthathi project, whom I had never heard of before, and knew who nothing about radio, and further more seemed to be quite hostile towards Rhodes journalists. And not to say the least we were about to attempt to work with Radio Grahamstown! A chaotically organized community station, with scarcely trained staff, and if there was ever a person who represented the term ‘African time’ more it would be Phumlani Wayi, the station manager himself. Frustrating would not even describe the many hours spent just waiting. And to top it all off, Litha and I were suppose to create a partnership between the two! Oh and one more thing, the mere fact that through all this we needed to create a sustainable weekly radio show on Radio G! I just sat there, mouth slightly open, overwhelment filtering my mind, not saying a word, and trying to appear quite calm, showing some enthusiasm on the surface. This was going to be a piece of cake, right!?

Well I'm going to be honest, it wasn't! But did I learn more than I ever imagined I would. Yes, I did. But not only that, I gained friendships and created something that will stay with me for the rest of my life. It might not be that best radio show in the world, it might not run smoothly or even as planned, but it epitomizes a community radio show. Barriers needed to be overcome and challenges so ridiculous they will make you laugh! The mics might stop working, the computer crashes and stings don't play on demand. But ultimately it is a conversation, there are smiles, and a genuine will to educate and better the community. At its essence it is the community itself helping their friends and the people who they live with. The Masakhane show truly tries to teach a healthy and sustainable living for all. This is what touched me the most, Umthathi’s true will to better the lives of others. They don’t just speak, they are living what they believe. One might not realize this at first glance, but having had the privilege opportunity to work with them, to travel, as far as Pedi, to interact with their school programs, to witness there workshops and the community themselves embracing the project. I feel honored to have helped them in my own way, to further the good work they do.

They now have a fully sustainable radio show every Friday at 11am. This is growing in listenership, with regular weekly phone calls from the listeners. We have also given them a great deal of photos and a sound slide which is now being used to further their advertisement and update their website.

Ultimately what made it all work, was the simple fact that Litha and I gained their trust. We delivered what we promised. We were hands on, participating and witnessing firsthand what they are all about. It was not easy! I do not think that anyone would be ready to take on such a project at first glance, but I am so glad that I did. Once I started I didn't look back, despite the many frustrating moments. The smiles and sense of accomplishment made it all worth it! Together, we created more than just a show; we gave hope for a better life, and not only that, the skills and education to achieve it.

My advice for the next generation of fourth year radio students would be to have patience. You need to truly engage with the project and respect the people you work with, because they have so much knowledge just waiting to be fully exposed. Build their trust by understanding what they do at first hand level. The Masakhane show has done the difficult ground work, and has given you a base to start with, but there is still so much potential! I would be really pleased if you carried on building the show and expand it. There is a lot of opportunity to work with their website, creating podcasts and growing their advertisement especially with their sponsors.

Lastly, I would like to thank Litha my partner in the project. Together we made a great team and formed a friendship. We deserve a pat on the back and to feel proud of what we have achieved. I'm very grateful to have been given this opportunity, and have gained much from it. Finally, I wish the Masakhane radio show all the best and hope they continue to grow! Thank you J

Photography by: Dianne Jordon

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

2nd Time Round...

So after the success of the first show the whole team was in high spirits! And with a much needed confidence boost gained from the first round, the second was surely going to be a cinch!

With all the stings, jingles, adverts and posters already prepared and on standby, there was little to be done on the technical side of the show. The preparation lay in organising the guests for that week’s show and the topic that would be discussed. This seemed to all be organised early on in the week. The topic of gardening had been settled on and Thenjiwe had been briefed on the questions that were to be asked. Once again the show kicked off at 11am on Friday, with the radio studio filled with a few nerves and a lot of excitement. And once again the show was a success. 
All in all, the show now runs quite smoothly, There are, however, still a few features  that need to be tweaked, such as the  stings and jingles which often don’t play on time owing to computer delays. One aspect of the show that can be improved is that of sticking to the specific topic of that week, as sometimes the facilitators can get carried away and deviate from the main point of discussion. I think this happens because their wealth of knowledge is so vast that often one question can lead into another topic. But this can definitely be improved on as the weeks go by. I believe that the facilitators will become more aware of the opportunity and space they have to set aside one specific topic for each show, rather than trying to cram all of their knowledge into one show.
I  want to take the time to point out just how much of an asset Thenjiwe has become to the Masakana show. Despite her absence earlier in process of establishing this project,  she has really been able to pull the show together, drawing on  her years of anchoring experience at Radio G and her knowledge of the audience  which the show is aimed at. This has been a great help to the whole team, especially her confidence, which has helped ease  the nerves in the studio.
When the show ended on Friday my day was still not over, as far as  Umthathi was concerned. I ventured off with my recorder and camera in hand, ready to help them celebrate the donation of a brand new water tank sponsored by Galela Amanzi, a Rhodes student organisation. My thinking, here, was to add to the  photos and recordings that I have been gathering  throughout the past few months. I plan to use this material to make a sound slide for Umthathi as a farewell gift, something that they can keep and use whenever they need. This is because the Umthathi project has truly inspired me, as I have witnessed firsthand the amazing work they do for their community. They are truly passionate about what they do, they inspire others and really do empower people to live a better way of life. I feel privileged to have been part of such a project.
So make sure you tune in next week at the same time, same place... and learn something new! J