Building Skills and Community In South Africa, Cont’d

[Editor’s Note: Cindy Burns profiles the continuing journey made with Steven Ablondi of their work and impact in South Africa in creating the first cohousing community, in Memel, South Africa. Bryan Bowen with Caddis Architecture in Boulder has been a generous and significant contributor.]

Happy New Year families and friends. Our annual sojourn to South Africa has proven difficult, with no rain and the hottest temperatures in recorded time. We have had to cut back on all of our vegetables because I can not water plants with people lining up in the streets for drinking water. I am struggling just to keep the perennials alive. The entire country is suffering. We talk more about rain here in South Africa than I bet any of you in America talk about Trump.

Steven and I have just entered our eighth year of retirement in Memel. Our little “project” has grown proportionately. We now have our Bryan Bowen designed rammed earth three unit guest house up and running, with paying guests over the Christmas holidays. The first house we purchased, known to many of you as “number 3” has been fully renovated as a guest house as well. It also has 3 baths and bedrooms, plus a living room, an eating room, a front porch, winter porch and two pizza ovens. Both houses sit within an organic medicinal garden that Rebecca and I struggle with, also filled with Ans Clark designed perennials. Ans’ roses abound: they love the cold and windy winters and are bearing up to to the drought. We have added another male to the litter: Pupp-ee, a black lab/daschound. He terrorizes Beauty and Beastie although he only comes up to their knees. The Kittens just snarl at him.Three dogs, three cats, four ducks, six chickens. I had to get rid of the sheep and the goats because in this drought there was no grass. Our animal “au pair”, Doris leaves us in February to return again in May.

Our little primary school library has so many books we have lost count and are trying to get an ‘official’ software programme to re-record. Bright’s wife Nyrai, is now the librarian. We started SheWinS early this year with our new co-ordinator Shakes Mafanela and have long jumpers; 80 and 100 metre sprinters; and long distance teams. I got a small grant so in addition to your generosity we will buy new uniforms and sneakers for all of the athletes.
The windows get ordered for our community in Zamani this weekend, with all five units ready to live in thereafter. I have decorated one so to show how a tiny house can be made so, so liveable.

With this, we have now completed models for up-scale co-housing and no-income co-housing. Next week we begin to renovate a series of small sheds we have in the middle of Memel into efficiency apartments, with rammed earth additions to existing brick structures. Our intention is to provide affordable dwellings for emerging middle-class professionals, usually single, so they will not be limited to living in the township and perpetuating the black/white divide. There is a big new clinic and new library almost completed and a new primary school, set to open in March. These will bring in new teachers and nurses that we want to cater this new model of community for.

Now if we could only make some money! The rand is at almost 16 to the dollar which is great for bringing money into the country but disaster for any going out. And, it is not predicted to change any time soon. So travellers – flights are cheap because the national airline is broke and needs dollars. Wine is cheap. Hotels and restaurants ridiculously inexpensive. Now is the time to buy a flight to come and visit us next year.

To learn more, visit

Category: Misc

Tags: community, Stories

Views: 932

Related Posts Cohousing Blog