Shining light in darkest corners of communities

Residents from Silvertown, Bridgetown and Parktown found solutions to some of the social ills in their areas, by discussing their concerns under lamp-posts at night.

An initiative involving sitting around a fire at night, under a lamp-post, discussing community concerns and reclaiming the “dark corners”, has already brought about positive changes for the Bridgetown, Silvertown and Parktown areas.

The Lamp Post project, initiated by the Silvertown Baptist Church more than five years ago, has grown into a full-fledged community-owned project, where safe spaces are being created to tackle challenges. Two other projects born from this, are the Silver Linings substance abuse support group, and the Men’s Accountability Group.

The co-ordinator of the Lamp Post project, Edgar Carolissen, said the aim of the initiative, was to engage with the community about what was troubling them in the area, but also to highlight the positives.

“We bring our chairs and sit under a lamp-post, with a ‘jet master galley blik’, enjoying some soup, and talk about what is troubling us, and what can be done about it. From the response, we found that substance abuse and absent fathers were among the challenges.

“Four years ago, we then started the Silver Linings substance abuse support group, and it has grown phenomenally. To date, we have helped 12 people to go to rehabilitation centres, and many of those seeking help, managed to turn their lives around without going for rehabilitation.

“The other project born out of it, is the Men’s Accountability Group, where 40 men meet every Wednesday. We stay in one location for five weeks, before moving to another spot.

“Before we move to a new location, we tell people about it. We move around Bridgetown, Silvertown and Parktown. For the next few weeks we will be on the corner of Heide and Cornflower Streets, Bridgetown – outside the shops.

“I doubted this project initially, but experience showed me that the more we become vulnerable, and people tell their stories honestly, where they are not judged, and they feel free to share, positive spin-offs happen,” Mr Carolissen said.

Some of the topics that will be discussed include “when are grandparents bad parents”, “when can a parent say no, when saying yes would be wrong”, “do I have a role to play in bringing about positive change”, “what are the assets in this community and how do we access it” and “what makes me feel unsafe”.

The Silver Linings group will also present their stories of hope, and plans are also in the pipeline to show short movies – in a way similar to that of the old drive-ins – to stimulate conversation.

Residents are all invited to join the conversations, and the younger generation is especially urged to attend.

Mr Carolissen added: “Simple rules apply – we listen more than we speak; we don’t judge; everybody’s story is worth listening to; conversation is facilitated with a short introduction and is enhanced by asking open-ended questions. Please feel free to join us.

“We will be sitting on the corner of Heide and Cornflower streets for the next few weeks, every Monday evening from 7.30pm to 9pm.”