Weekly Photo Challenge: Thankful

Each time I pass a squatter camp in South Africa, I am thankful that I have the financial means to live in the home I do. With each visit to the land of my birth, I notice that these informal settlements have increased in size.

An overview of a squatter camp in South Africa. © Colline Kook-Chun, 2012

The above “town” can be seen from a highway when you travel from Roodepoort to Pretoria. It seems to stretch out for kilometres, encompassing the homes of many.

Shanty houses in squatter camp, South Africa. © Colline Kook-Chun, 2012

The shanty houses are made from bits and pieces: corrugated sheets of aluminium which seem to be held together with prayer. Roofs are held on with bricks and tyres.

Living next to the highway. © Colline Kook-Chun, 2012

The homes creep up right onto the edge of the highway. Vegetation is sparse and I wonder where the inhabitants get their water to wash their clothes and cook their food.

Informal dwellings in a squatter camp, South Africa. © Colline Kook-Chun, 2012

Dwellings are unpainted; and the surroundings are not those that would epitomise beauty. Grass is rare as the grounds are swept clean; and miscellaneous buckets and pieces of litter colour the ground.

View of a squatter camp in South Africa. © Colline Kook-Chun, 2012

When passing another squatter camp, I was struck by the contrast to the homes found not far away: homes that are well maintained and surrounded by well kept gardens. These shacks are herded together to create space for even more people that have come to the major towns and cities to get work.

Hanging the wash out to dry in a squatter camp, South Africa. © Colline Kook-Chun, 2012

But life goes on for the inhabitants of these informal settlements, as testified by the clothing hanging out to dry.

What is your response each time you pass an informal settlement?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2012

(This post was inspired by the Weekly Photo Challenge posted at The Daily Post at WordPress.com. This week’s prompt is: Thankful)

30 thoughts on “Weekly Photo Challenge: Thankful

  1. In my travels, I’ve seen dire poverty. India, Mexico, South Africa and the US too.
    There is no excuse for this– the sign of civilization is how it takes care of ones with the least- shame on the governments of countries that allow these sorts of “towns” to exist.


    1. It is a sign of poverty – and it is those with the least skills that feel it the most. It frustrates me when I think of how educating these people may help many of them to leave behind their current surroundings – or even help them to make where they are more hygienic. As always, it is the poor who are sidelined when governments spend their budgets.


    1. They are being filled with a combination of legal and illegal immigrants, as well as South African born people. Unemployment in South Africa has risen to above 25%.; and with that has come the poverty that many are experiencing,


      1. I understand – I did know about the appalling unemployment rate but I mistakenly assumed when people couldn’t get work they’d return ‘home’ to their rural villages to at least live off the land – that’s what happens here. Terrible, isn’t it?

        They say unemployment among the ‘youth’ of Spain is about the same – that the worldview of a whole generation is being changed by this economic crisis. What chance do places like Africa have to ride through unscathed, when the old world can barely cope?


        1. I agree. The problem just seems to be escalating with no solution. Something in our system is going to have to change in order to find a solution. Wish I knew what it should be.


  2. It’s really depressing knowing that there is so much poverty. I find the world’s population growth statistics really scary. I read recently that to keep up worldwide it equates to building a town for 1 million every week! I’ve been involved in a project at a nearby informal settlement and in the last five years land which was allocated to hold 5000 has burgeoned to 25,000. The city officials try hard to keep up but the backlog just keeps growing. In Cape Town 1 million ratepayers are funding electricity and water for 3 million non-paying residents. Start doing the math and there is only so far funding can be stretched. But i agree, much more needs to be done to alleviate dire poverty and where governments are failing, it seems that civil society must step forward.


    1. Yes, we need to begin to help each other. And find ways in which these people can financially afford living in a safer environment. When I do see poverty like this, I tend to feel that the government has let down its people.


  3. I feel exactly the same as you, Colline. My gratitude for my own privileged situation, is mixed with anger that those in our government don’t use the country’s resources wisely, and will rather spend on unnecessary, extravagant frivolities, instead of on education, healthcare and housing projects.


  4. Colline, what can we do about this? Can we pressure the government into taking action? I just don’t understand how we can create a world with unequal wealth and decide some people are not worthy of care or caring about. We see similar circumstances in Canada with tent cities. And, we also have weather that drops below zero, making outdoor life inhumane for those without housing. Temporary shelter is the answer, but then these people are turned out at 6am for the day and cannot return until the evening to sleep. This is not a life for anyone.

    I believe that any humane society would house it’s inhabitants decently and allow for some provision for ensuring sustainability in the form of food procurement by growing food and bartering it, working as a cooperative community etc. There must be many solutions to poverty. Why as any nation are we not attending to this?

    Because for the more fortunate of us, we are spending our own day devoted to the pursuit of maintaining self and family, working and feeling fairly exhausted at the end of the day, decide that the problem is too overwhelming, believe that others fate is in their own hands to guide, believe that the poor get what they deserve for their own situation, don’t know what to do, don’t know how to make a difference, are under the thumb of current opinion and it’s political influence and consider changing the current political system of oppression of some too big a mountain to climb and feel helpless to change this in the face of such immense power. But, there are small things we can do each day.

    We can at the very least agree that the poor deserve a better life and that we have the resources to support everyone decently, and must move towards this….somehow.


    1. That is why we have governments – to ensure that all the inhabitants of a country do receive all that they need. But the problem, I believe, is one that is a result of capitalism. If people are always in pursuit of money and profit, there will be those that will fall by the wayside. Communism has been shown not to work. We need to therefore find another system in which all people have their basic needs provided for.


  5. I think it is very sad that the government does not provide places for the poor people to live and that also includes the poor people here in the USA.


  6. Your question is a strange one to me, we don’t have anything like that here, well, no where where I have seen. Our government in the past has done a lot to create housing for people, not so much now. I don’t know how I would feel if I saw them for real.


    1. Kudos to your government. I think the South African one should look to yours to see how it is done. The government in South Africa has what they call the RDP programme; a programme which aims to house all South Africans. However, not much has been done in reaching this goal due to corruption and inefficiency.


  7. Sadly, they are everywhere just given different names…
    ¸.•*¨*•.♪♫♫♪Happy Thanksgiving weekend to you! .♪♫•*¨*•.¸¸ ♥


    1. Often we take for granted the space we live in. Sometimes seeing people who have less makes us realise how blessed we are. Seeing these squatter camps does remind me that no matter how humble my home is, at least it is safe and secure.


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