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Making a difference in the community starts with you

by Salaamedia Intern
Residents who work together create a better future for the community Photo Pexels

South Africa – Sometimes it can feel like we are being punished for paying our rates and taxes as services are not fully carried out. There are some who are tired of paying and not receiving. These residents are taking it upon themselves to improve their community. It seems it might be the way to go.

Active citizenship refers to active participation from the local community to help keep law and order in their community. Ryan Hawthorne, member of the Parkhurst Residents and Business Owners Association (PRABOA), explained one of the easiest ways to do this is by getting involved at local levels. Perhaps with the parks department or something of that nature.

“Partnering with city parks on the upkeep of parks for instance. Residents or people living around a public park can partner with the city to maintain that park and that’s what we’ve done quite effectively over the last number of years and that’s worked very very well in Parkhurst.”

The importance of residents coming together to maintain their communities

Although there are departments in charge of the upkeep of infrastructure, it is common to find said infrastructure lacking. At times like these Bianca Albertini, who is part of the Residents Association and the suburb security subcommittee, believes one can either complain or get involved in helping the departments. 

“I think just to try and bridge the gap [that exists]. There is a disconnect between what is expected and what is happening and the only people really that can step up and get involved in this are our residents themselves.”

By coming together to sort out issues, it only benefits the residents of the area Albertini rightfully pointed out.

“We’re living here. It’s our safety, it’s our peace of mind, it’s our well-being that we need to ensure is kept on the go at the same time. For me it’s just obvious that we need to be the ones that are going to step up and assist.”

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Having a strong relationship with local officials is key to building a neighbourhood you want

The only ones who know what is needed in their community are the residents. This is why Albertini feels it is beneficial to build a strong relationship with the ward counsellor. This relationship will ensure the appropriate things are built, sorted and fixed and money is not wasted on unnecessary things.

“It’s got to do with building and strengthening and then maintaining relationships. A lot of the time we have access to certain resources, but we need to once again be the bridge. We have an amazing ward counsellor but there is only so much that she can do from an operational perspective. She relies heavily on members of her community to assist her, to bring issues to her attention.”

Balancing a community that has residences as well as businesses 

When a community is made up of residences then it is fairly simple to get everyone together. However, when you have residences and business then it becomes tricky. Sometimes residents and business owners won’t see eye to eye on things. However, Hawthorne believes having both at the table is advantageous to the community.

“We have restaurant owners who sit on our monthly meetings and who are very much involved in everything that we do. The other thing is we’ve retained the services of a time planning organisation. Whenever an application comes up to say set up a new bar or a new establishment, we review that application. We consider whether there’s enough parking and whether we think that it’s going to keep up and maintain the profile of the suburb. If we don’t believe that’s the case then we oppose it.”

Hawthorn also has architects who ensure any new buildings are built in design with the heritage of the community, the style of the community buildings around it.

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Every skill matters, every second matters

There are often fears from people that one might not have the confidence, skill or time required to be a part of a resident association. Albertini stressed every job one does is important. Even if all they do is write down the minutes of a meeting.

“I had a discussion about a month ago with a prominent member of our community. One of the things he said really struck a chord with me. In terms of involvement there isn’t really a stipulated amount that you need to be involved in … The nice thing about a community is that there’s so many of us and each of us have different skills, strengths and weaknesses. The combination of all of those things together and what you feel is the smallest contribution that you can make actually at the end of the day can be quite a big difference.”

The problem arises when someone feels they can’t contribute or they can’t make time. As long as some contribution is made, it is better than nothing, said Albertini. A strong, functioning resident association ensures a safe and clean community. One that will be beneficial in many ways to all.

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