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

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