AfrikaBurn 2024: 29 April to 5 May

The Dignity Project – Stepping Up And Rolling Out

Since the lockdown slammed into us all at full speed back in March – and grounding all plans for any 2020 event in the desert – members of our team have been involved in realigning our energies and focus. And amongst the most visible of these efforts have been The Dignity Project, which was initiated back in 2018 as a means of alleviating the sanitation challenges that street folks of Observatory, Cape Town, face on a day to day basis.
The project began as so many collaborations with our organisation do: with an idea and a conversation, and in this case it was kickstarted between concerned members of our team and civic partners involved in our annual Streetopia Obs street festival in the suburb of Cape Town that’s been home to AfrikaBurn since its inception.
Little did we know then that the first steps we took in creating the toilet units that would go on to be rolled out at our main annual event in the desert would become the core of a greater programme that would become instrumental in providing much-needed relief for the homeless community in our area as a result of Covid-19 and the pressing need to provide personal sanitation solutions on the streets. But that’s how we roll, as an organisation and as a community: the lessons we’ve learnt in the desert over the years continue to provide us with ways to invent the world anew beyond the dust.

Here’s what’s coming in the next phase for the Dignity Project:

  • Members of our DPW team (folks who know the crew will be familiar with ace mechanic Anthony and smiley Shaam – these are the technicians who are working behind the scenes at our HQ)  have installed tamper-proof basins at the wash stations and have done maintenance on the toilets too, replacing the bases.
  • The team will also be prepping the toilet units for winter weather, by adding small roof structures to them for protection during Cape Town’s wet season. These roof panels are planned to be made out of upcycled material like the rest of the toilet unit components, and to have the members of the street community that use the toilets assisting in fabricating these, with our team then installing them.
  • Plans are underway to design a toilet unit that provides greater privacy and can thus be used in more public spaces. This upgraded version of the toilet units are due to be rolled out as soon as the design has been finalised.
  • A new aspect of the Dignity Project is that we’re looking at ways to incorporate maintenance of the toilet units by getting folks on the street taught handyman skills, with this rollout of skill sharing to be incorporated into our civic partner (the Observatory Improvement District)’s upskilling programme.
  • The same Fire Safety team (headed up by Rob Erasmus) that keep us all safe in the desert are the same crew involved in providing our Dignity Project toilet units and wash stations supplied with water, in partnership with and certified by the City Of Cape Town. We’re now looking to extend their involvement, as they play a crucial role in helping to keep the Dignity Project units serviced and functional for folks on the street that use them.

Since our last update on The Dignity Project, we’re happy to report that things have begun to progress, with new partnerships afoot that will help to expand the Dignity Project’s reach and impact. In the process, we’re forging stronger bonds with local community-based organisations and civic bodies, which are enabling our team to extend the good work it’s doing out in the world.

We hope to bring you more updates on the civic partnerships that are being discussed, as well as examples of where new toilet and wash station units have been deployed, soon.
To help accelerate the process of building The Dignity Project’s toilet and wash units, it would help a great deal to be able to buy greater numbers of plumbing components – and though these are not expensive items, buying them in bulk brings the cost of each unit down to a level that enables civic organisations and community-based projects to buy the units and get them operating in a greater number of areas where needed. So far, our donations drive is almost at the R12 000 mark – but all involved would love to see those numbers climb higher, so the Dignity Project’s free community sanitation service can expand and make a difference to folks living on the street. Sound like something you’d like to see happen?
Click here to support The Dignity Project’s donations drive – or, if you’re involved in a community-based organisation or civic that’s interested in having toilet and wash stations installed in your area, email the team on [email protected]
Stay tuned, stay safe and stay positive out there.
To stay updated on progress with this project, Head to The Dignity Project’s Facebook page.

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