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Rooftops Canada Volunteer visit Cape Town, South Africa.

News and Resources
By Virginia Smith
“Let us live and strive for freedom in South Africa, our land.” These words from South Africa’s national anthem echoed in my mind as my plane touched down in Cape Town last November. My trip was an inspiring opportunity to visit a country whose government has, since 1994, committed itself to social equality and the satisfaction of the basic needs of all its residents. The South African constitution is one of only a few in the world that names housing as a right.
The South Africa government has built about 2.3 million small starter homes on serviced sites since the end of the apartheid era in 1994. Despite this enormous effort, the government recently estimated that 2.4 million families still need housing and that the backlog is increasing at the rate of about 200,000 a year.
As a Rooftops Canada volunteer in Toronto, I was pleased to visit its partner, the Kuyasa Fund, a housing microfinance organization that works in the Western and Eastern Cape provinces of South Africa. Since its inception in 1999, Kuyasa has helped 9,700 households and 48,000 individuals improve and expand their starter homes through the utilization of people’s savings and small, unsecured micro-loans. The loans range from CDN$120 -$1,200. A large majority of Kuyasa’s clients are women with low incomes. Many of them work in the country’s informal sector.
Rooftops Canada young professional interns have been helping Kuyasa develop and expand its microfinance program for several years. I was happy to meet Rooftops Canada’s current interns Nike Adebowale and Ginu Chacko. They are helping set up new Kuyasa offices outside of Cape Town. Ginu had this to say about her internship;
This internship has been exactly what I needed. I have made really strong connections with people in the field of microfinance in particular. I have seen firsthand the challenges that an organization dealing with housing microfinance faces. The experience has sparked in me many more questions about microfinance and development, which I look forward to exploring beyond my internship experience”.
My visit with Kuyasa reinforced my commitment to the work that Rooftops Canada and its partners do overseas. I look forward to sharing my experiences with housing cooperators in Toronto.