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Women need safe spaces on rural farms

When you are told time and time again that you are not good enough and that your pain does not matter as much. When people don’t just look pass you, but to them, you do not even exist. When that has been your reality for generations it is hard not let yourself think it is not true.

To make a decision to risk everything that has been known to you your entire life and be an example of a rural woman living on a rural farm who brings an end to a generational cycle of poverty, abuse, suffering, hardship and humiliation requires a safe space to create an alternative rural economy by farm women for farm women, daily intervention and lots of encouragement along the way. It also requires a safe space to make as many mistakes possible to learn from without judgement.

The women on Middelpos farm are a true INSPIRation to many who are experiencing the same challenges. They are working daily to improve their basic education, increase their health and create more opportunities so that more rural farm women can have financial security, adequate accommodation, social justice and a real chance to bring an end to poverty as they experience it.

We have thus far created permanent employment for 40 rural women on Middelpos and surrounding farms in just three years. The farm has the potential to create another 200 – 250 permanent jobs in the near future. Financial independency for rural farm women is key to tackle social justice on rural farms. Our work has just begun.

Please support our work by becoming a monthly donor and/or making us your charity of choice to help fundraise for. Thank you so much.

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Middelpos farm: Rural farm women and children rising

We have been warned of extremely cold, wet and windy weather conditions in the Western Cape. Although we are very happy to have had nearly 70mm of rainfall since the start of the cold patch on Thursday, we are extremely worried about the many challenges that such weather brings to already struggling rural farm families on Middelpos and surrounding farms.

The families on Middelpos farm live in clay brick housing structures (mainly one or two rooms each and one small window) with asbestos roofs. Every time it rains, more holes start to show in the crumbling walls and asbestos roofs. The families spend much time to scoop water from their houses, dressed in all the clothes that they own and cuddle up close to each other to help one another stay warm. The families are prepared to do the renovations themselves, but need much needed financial support to buy the materials. A heartbreaking situation.

The Department of Rural Development and Land Reform in South Africa, owner of the Middelpos farm, approved the building of 13 houses more than 5 years ago, but to date has not delivered despite the many efforts from the beneficiaries of this farm (13 poor, struggling and very vulnerable families) to go as far as negotiating to settle for upgrading of the existing inhuman and very poor housing structures instead of building new houses. Instead, the department has turned a blind eye to the suffering of the farm families leaving it to themselves to find a way to restore their human dignity and develop a 60ha farm. They continue to buy more farms and yet fail to make the ones owned by them work, instead. It has been nearly two years since the Middelpos CPA requested the government to hand over the title to the farm to them which will help them to farm under less restrictions such as asking permission every time they want to plant a crop or renovate a falling building structure. How can you be expected to learn how to be a farmer in the absence of true ownership by people who never owned land before? How the government expects South African farm families to develop rural farms when they are reluctant to improve the very basics that human beings need to get up in the mornings and continue the hard work of farming, is beyond our imagination.

Thanks to the partnership between the Middelpos Communal Property Association (Middelpos CPA) and INSPIRE CHILDREN AND YOUTH TRUST a holistic and integrated community programme aimed at creating safe spaces for rural farm children and women was developed and implemented on Middelpos farm since 2017. This INSPIREprogramme seems to work. To date more than 50 children from Middelpos and surrounding farms participate in JUDO, holistic educational support, health awareness and assistance, Auntie Judith’s Food Garden and entrepreneurial training. We call the children INSPIREpreneurs because as much as they need to improve their chances to escape a generational cycle of poverty and abuse, they also have a responsibility to INSPIRE more to join their cause and solve their own challenges. More than 40 permanent jobs for farm women have been created since 2017 and each day provides a safe space for abused, struggling, vulnerable and poor women on Middelpos and surrounding farms to improve their livelihoods, mental and physical health, education and create more jobs for other farm women who are trapped in similar cycles of poverty and abuse. We believe that the poor should solve their own problems. They know the answers already, but are seldomly asked how and given the time to solve their own challenges on rural farms. Who would not feel human when you have a proper and decent toilet or are not ducking any asbetos flakes when a strong wind blows through your clay-brick walls? What child would not feel more motivated to continue to attend school if they had a nice, warm house to hide away from the cold?

Despite the many achievements, a constant worry for us is the failing efforts to persuade government to take responsibility and provide some support to these determined rural farm women and children. We believe that once their housing conditions are improved, the many social challenges will start to dissapear too. Many women have no security on farms and continue to live in abusive relationships because they have no other house to escape to. It saddens us to think that the very same women who are growing the most delicious organic vegetables, make jam and pickled vegetables are making it with the fear of returning to abusive homes, tears because of the many humiliations faced at home and extremely vulnerable tenureship on rural farms. If they stand up for their rights, they may loose everything including a home for them and their children.

We appeal to our South African government to put the two requests from Middelpos farm namely the financial support to do some basic renovations to the Middelpos houses and grant them ownership of title on their agenda and work with INSPIRE to incubate the most successful and very exciting alternative economy on a rural farm that provides permanent jobs to farm women and address the many socio-economic challenges faced by rural farm families on Middelpos and surrouding farms. Thank you!

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INSPIREletters from the children

Winter season is the most challenging for children on rural farms. Covid-19 and lockdown in South Africa make it even worse. The houses of the children on Middelpos farm are cold, wet and damped from rain leaking through their clay brick walls and asbetos roofs. It is so much harder to keep the children motivated during lockdown and in their poor living conditions. At least attending school and after school support provided them with an escape of a few hours every day.

To help lift their moods, we asked them to choose any person who has visited the farm before and write a letter to them. We wish you could see how their eyes lit up and how their broad smiles lit up their faces! They spent all afternoon writing, concentrating, laughing, drawing and coloring-in the most beautiful letters to their friends who are far away but who are helping them to cope with some very real life challenges. One boy’s mother spent the whole afternoon with him, putting her hand over his tiny hand to help him write his letter. He is only five but was determined to write a letter too.

In this wonderful and selfless gesture, our little INSPIREpreneurs have put smiles on the faces of people who may be struggling too, who knows. At the same time, our children are improving their literacy skills and forcing the women to do the same! Two women wrote a thank you letter each to everyone who support their INSPIREveggie bag project.

The children are determined to write letters to their friends on the surrounding farms tomorrow to help keep their hope alive too. A secret is that they have to think about a JUDO question to help their friends begin training “remotely” for the year-end JUDO grading. How clever is that?

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INSPIREmoulsford partnership

We are so grateful to the children, parents, teachers and school management of Moulsford Prep School in England for adopting our charity in South Africa and supporting us in our journey to restore human dignity on Middelpos and surrounding farms. Due to the global outbreak of the Coronavirus, their school trip to South Africa that was due to take place in March 2020 was cancelled. Despite this sad reality, the team from Moulsford decided to go ahead and still support the work of INSPIRE on Middelpos farm by helping us to restore human dignity and strengthening the feeding programme for the children and their families.

Soon, the children will have a very old room renovated into a small kitchen on Middelpos farm. The kitchen will feed 55 rural farm children and 40 women daily. It will also use the vegetables to cook warm meals during cold and wet periods when poor and struggling farm families are in need of warm soup and bread to help keep them healthy. We hope that this kitchen will start feeding 500 farm families soon. The elderly people will use the kitchen at times to make pickled vegetables and jam from the organic vegetables grown by the children and women in Auntie Judith’s food garden. The pickled vegetables and jam are sold to support the children’s JUDO programme.

We can’t let all the secrets out of the bag just yet. Please watch the space for more updates!

Thank you so much Moulsford Prep School for the most amazing gift that seems so basic and yet so life changing for a rural farming community where it is exactly the basic of human existence that is lacking. Please know that we are so grateful to have your support. We can’t wait to serve meals to your school when you visit next. A million thank yous!

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The poor helping the poor on rural farms

There is something extra special when the poor help each other. We believe that it is not because they much, but because they know exactly what it feels like to have nothing.

Children and women grow organic vegetables in Auntie Judith’s Food Garden on Middelpos farm to feed themselves and to share with other vulnerable and poor families who live on surrounding farms. This food garden was started by the children in 2018 and is about 0.5ha in size. Children from as young as 4 years to 16 years worked a bit every day after school, during weekends and even during their school holidays to establish the garden by hand. They went home to ask the adults how to do what and also INSPIREd them with their energy.

Soon, the women (mostly their mothers and grandmothers) came to share the experience of growing vegetables with the children.

To contribute positively to help prevent the spread of covid-19 and help keep the vulnerable healthy, the children and women distributed vegetables to vulnerable elderly people on rural farms. They also shared the jam and pickled vegetables with them.