Fire, water and rebuilding Iraq and Lebanon

‘I took the first picture because I didn’t understand the camera.’ This was one of the texts under a picture of a person that wasn’t clearly visible. The picture was taken by a lady of Thembacare. An NGO that delivers essential healthcare services to the communities in Grabauw, in areas called Rooidakke, Waterworks, but also Lebanon and Iraq. The last two are literally named after the countries because the area’s resemble a war zone so much. There are no facilities like running water or electricity. Only people living in shacks on the slopes of a mountain, which make refugee camps look like heaven.

Other texts read: ‘This is the house that is broken, but some people don’t have houses,’ or ‘Shop closed because of Xenophobic attack,’ and another ‘Small shack like a fire place.’

Where there’s life, you will find laughter as well and some of the pictures reflected this ‘The two co-workers excited to go to work to take care of the people’ or ‘Some people have ducks, these ducks look so good and healthy,’ and ‘Me busy doing observation of the patient and encourage to use medication properly.’

The ladies were asked to take the pictures by Wessel, my colleague from the Olive Leaf Foundation to portray wellbeing of the communities in terms of health, environment, housing etc. This afternoon they discussed the themes of the pictures for example (dirty) water – drainage overflowing, causing flooding in houses or children playing in polluted streams – houses – broken, leaking, old or new housing schemes by the municipality – cows – roaming around the community and scaring people at night as they sound like burglars when walking next to the house trying to eat plastic etc.

One of the biggest themes was fire. There were various pictures of cooking fires, inside and outside the shacks, but also of shacks destroyed by fire. I was particularly impressed with a series that showed the shacks burnt to the ground with only a number of poles left standing. It seemed to me like the ultimate defeat. Your house is already crap and the little that you have, has also turned into ashes.

Turns out that my interpretation of the picture was wrong, as the caption under picture was: ‘Busy to start building again after the shacks were destroyed by fire.’ So they were destroyed, but where I only saw the negative, the photographer highlighted the positive: people were picking up their life again and rebuilding their houses even in area’s like Iraq and Lebanon. It told me once again the resilience of people and for me to watch out for what is in the eye of the beholder, you might be totally mistaken.

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