Photo/Karin Schermbrucker) :: Mona Miller outside her shack Thursday,
Nov. 8, 2007 as nearly 1,400 Irish volunteers completed their mission
Friday to build 200 homes in a week on adjoining property in the
Freedom Park slum suburb of Cape Town, South Africa.
FREEDOM PARK, South Africa
For the first time, Mona Miller has a real roof, solid walls and
glass windows. Lights come on at the flick of a switch, water flows
from the tap and she has the dignity of a toilet.
Miller will move into her first proper home this weekend thanks
to a building blitz by nearly 1,400 Irish volunteers, who completed a
mission Friday to construct 200 houses in a week in the depressing,
dusty _ and hopelessly misnamed _ Freedom Park slum.
”It’s a solid home, not something that people can drive
though,” said Miller, shuddering at the memory of the drunk driver who
rammed into her shack four years ago, injuring her two young children
in this sprawling Cape Town slum.
”I look forward to hearing the rain on the roof because I will
no longer have to get up and put buckets underneath the holes. I’m
going to close my doors and sleep for a week,” she said with a grin,
gazing proudly as builders put finishing touches on the mustard-colored
The initiative, now in its fifth year, was organized by Niall Mellon, a millionaire Irish entrepreneur who bought a holiday home near Cape Town but could not accept the squalor in the townships around the jewel in South Africa’s tourist crown.
Since the end of apartheid, the government has built more than
2.4 million homes for needy families. But millions still live in
shacks, and protests about bad living conditions and lack of services
erupt almost weekly.
”The difference here is that the scale of the problem is such
that nobody gets the chance to catch their breath and see what’s been
achieved,” Mellon said.
In Cape Town alone, there is a backlog of 460,000 homes, Mayor
Helen Zille said. With thousands flocking in from poor rural areas, the
backlog is growing by 15,000 a year. ”We are going backward,” Zille
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