Audery February, BRAVE Senior Leader, interviewed Patsy Daniels as part of BRAVE’s Women’s month focus on inspirational women. Patsy, is a community worker, her passion for community services started in the early 2000’s. She speaks about how she grew up surrounded by people and always listened to their stories about the challenges they faced and since then made it her job to give back to her community. Despite the fact that she did not grow up in Manenberg she feels like it has always been her home. Patsy recently completed her Honours in Community Development Degree Course and is already speaking about getting her Bachelor of Theology Degree at the Stellenbosch University in 2022. Patsy says “You are never too old to learn”.
The interview took place on Wednesday, 18th August at 2pm. This was conducted via zoom due to the COVID-19 restrictions.
Audery: What three words best describe you?
Patsy Daniels: Love, passion and commitment.
Audery: Living in Manenberg, how did your passion for working within the community start?
Patsy Daniels: My passion started way back not realizing that I might reside in Manenberg, or that my family was going to move to Manenberg and I was going to follow them later. I was raised in a shebeen in Retreat with my guardian family. Growing up in a shebeen you are always surrounded by people and are noticing things, you listen to their life stories even though they are coming to have a drink. You are learning about their history and as a child you don’t really take note until later, when you are grown. I had a baby so I moved back to my biological family in Manenberg where I got married, but I realised that I still felt lonely and I knew there was a gap and I wanted to be involved within the community. In 1996 school governing bodies were initiated by the government. I was on the governing board for 8 years and for 3 of those years I was the chairperson of Saambou Primary. In 2001, I officially became a community worker for Self-Help Manenberg who had to close their doors in 2014 due to unforeseen circumstances. I did a personal capacity building weekend with Rape Crisis, which prepared me for community work prior to starting at Self-Help Manenberg.
Audery: What work are you currently doing?
Patsy Daniels: My current work is not official, I am not employed by any organization or any entity other than being under auspices of the Women’s Legal Centre. We are a group of women that started in 2018 called the Cape Flats Women’s Movement under the leadership of Fatima Shaboodien but due to COVID-19 we could not continue. We were then sourced by the Women’s Legal Centre as Human Right Defenders. I used to cook for the community out of my own pocket prior to COVID but since COVID the members of the Manenberg stakeholder group collaborated with CAN (Community Action Network) and fundraised for the kitchens. I run one of 35 community kitchens in the Manenberg Food Security Programme, which provides weekly meals to the community. This is my contribution and passion towards our community. I just turned 60 this year but that won’t stop me from doing what I do. I’m now in the process of starting my own organization.
Audery: Do you think the work you do within the community is bringing change?
Patsy Daniels: It depends how you look at change, because you can see change and be ‘Oh yesterday there were no buildings today there are buildings’. Are we looking at the building or are we looking at what is happening with the person. I come from an organisation where our focus was to build the person from within, from a life skills point of view and I think the organisation was very big even on us for personal development and I still have those skill sets. For me just being that encouragement, motivation whether it’s for the youth or older people that is my way to bring change.
Audery: What do you find challenging about the work you do?
Patsy Daniels: Our people have accepted their status quo, they have accepted their life situations, they have become complacent and accepted their surroundings not realizing that they have rights. The rights of the country are in the hands of the people but how do we stand up for our rights? The community has not dealt with being forcefully removed from District Six and the other areas declared white, according to the Group Areas Act of 1950. They have not talked about the pain it caused them and because of that they pass their pain on to the next generation and the next.
Our youth are facing so many challenges which is 100 times worse than when we grew up. This is a huge challenge because as a society we are just sitting and allowing our youth to fall foul of the system, becoming a number within the system. We look at our children and think that they made this choice to do wrong but we don’t realise that there is an underlying story, there are reasons our kids made these choices.
Audery: What keeps you motivated?
Patsy Daniels: I wake up every morning thanking God knowing that I can live another day and that I am able to do things for myself and contribute to my community. My motivation is also teaching people how to fish instead of giving them fish.
Audery: You recently completed your studies. What or who inspired you to go and study?
Patsy Daniels: My inspiration bug started way back when I was still working at Self–Help Manenberg and it continued with every opportunity that was given to me, I took it. I have done the practical side of Community Development for 20 years and then the opportunity came to do the theory part of it. Community Development was not seen as a formal qualification so when it became a qualification I grabbed the opportunity to go study with both hands. While doing my Community Development studies I was also busy with my Theology studies. Most of us also had to leave school at a very young age and my motto was always no matter what the age I’ll always be a lifelong learner.
Audery: Can you tell me more about your journey?
Patsy Daniels: My learning journey taught me that empowering myself will help me to empower others.
Audery: As an older woman did you find any difficulties going back to studying after years of being done with school? Tell me about your experience completing the Honours in Community Development?
Patsy Daniels: Yes, it is difficult especially when you go into academic studies when you haven’t been in school for years, so much has changed. The institution adapted because they knew not many of us had the opportunity to complete school. I think when I started at Cornerstone Institute the main challenge was academic writing. You need to write in a specific way and it was difficult, especially not having matric. My other challenge was being in a deep depression for over seven (7) years. I personally attest my studying and my faith as a believer to have helped with my healing process.
Audery: How did you overcome the challenge of depression?
Patsy Daniels: I was in professional therapy, and was fortunate to have gone to Japan in 2016 for a year. It is one of the most peaceful countries and I think the change of environment played a big part in my healing. I also took responsibility to take care of myself. I attended self-care sessions and went for massages. However, making the decision to go back and study was one of the contributing factors to my road to wellness. My faith as a Christian believer helped me recover.
Audery: Now that you have completed your studies, what is your next step? Will you continue to bring change in your community?
Patsy Daniels: I will take what I learned and train and support others, especially women within my community.
Audery: What advice do you have for young girls?
Patsy Daniels: Young girls please do not get pregnant at a young age, yes there are a lot of challenges that you are going through but you are destined for greatness and you should empower yourself. Develop yourself and look at what is important for you. Build your independence before being dependent.