Creating connections through the arts and across cultures

Kwanda (wealth & growth): Reality TV for Social Action & Community Development in South Africa

Damaria Senne is a writer based in Johannesburg. She chats about her life as a writer and mother on Storypot. In addition to writing about technology( , she also blogs for OneLove, a regional HIV prevention campaign spanning 9 countries Southern Africa. The campaign encourages people to have one sexual partner at a time, and to be faithful to that partner as a measure to reduce HIV infection in the region.

Damaria has been a blogging buddy for several years. We met Last year in South Africa. She took me to Phokeng, her family's village (a kingdom, really!) last August.--JGR


Imagine if hundreds of volunteers across a country began working together.

When I was growing up in Phokeng, the need for community members to work hard to improve their living conditions and their fellow-man was taught to us at a very early age. I also saw this commitment to community in action.

For example, in the early 70s, families from my side of the village each contributed a couple of Rands [SA currency] to buy building materials to build Kgale Primary School, where I started my elementary school education.

This meant that children would no longer have to travel about 10 kilometers by foot from where I lived, to attend school in the central village. I also saw this commitment to doing for oneself demonstrated by my neighbors, who sometimes had to cart water and sand from a nearby dam to build their homes themselves.

So I was very excited when I was asked to develop web content for KWANDA, a South African community makeover TV show.

So what is Kwanda?

Kwanda means ‘wealth’ and ‘growth’ and the show bills itself as the first community make-over show in the world.

Reality TV Show in South Africa: Re-making of a Community

A few months ago, volunteer teams were recruited across South Africa. They were trained to organize themselves and subsequently filmed as they work together addressing some of the biggest challenges their communities face.

The volunteers have been helping orphans, reducing alcohol abuse and alcohol-related violence, generating income, creating jobs and reducing new HIV infections in their communities. KWANDA shows their journey.

During the series, audiences will follow the drama, tensions, successes and challenges of these ordinary people. And, at the end of the series, in a live finale, the television audience will reward the team they believe has made the biggest difference with a major prize.

To help communities make ends meet, an innovative fashion project called Kwanda Klothing will be launched during the TV series.

A team of designers have put together an urban street wear collection, the production of which was undertaken by a collective production facility in each community, creating jobs and teaching valuable entrepreneurial skills at the same time.

To counter the seasonal lull that is characteristic of the fashion industry, a number of unique corporate promotional products are already being produced.

So, other than the history of how I grew up, why does this project resonate with me so much?

On a broader level, I love the concept of ordinary people working hard to improve their lives and helping their fellow-men. I’m sure Janet has lost count of the number of times I’ve said that the answer to Africa’s development lies inside of us, not from the outside.

Not that help is not appreciated! But doing for yourself not only yields results, it also empowers people and gives them confidence in their abilities to take care of themselves.

I also like the fact that volunteering is being popularised in South Africa, and people who want to get more involved in their communities will learn from the experiences of the communities they watch.

And as a writer and blogger, I am happy that I am getting a chance to use my writing to make a difference to society.

I would also like to encourage more writers and bloggers to use their talents to make a difference: tell the inspiring stories of the people in your community who make a difference to society; help a non-profit develop an online presence that communicates their cause more effectively and mobilises supporters; encourage your readers to do something to help their communities; tell the next person who reads your blog that they matter and every little bit of help they can give also matters.

Kwanda premiers on the 2 September and will play Wednesdays on SABC 1, one of the stations of the national broadcaster in South Africa.
You can join to be a fan of Kwanda on Facebook.

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2 Responses »

  1. Thank you so much Janet for hosting me and allowing me to talk about Kwanda. Ke a leboga Mma.


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