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Finding solutions for urban and rural deprivation has long been a national priority. Huge efforts have been made to develop an integrated approach to tackling poverty, education and other related social issues.  Despite various government and private sector led initiatives to address this challenge, such is the magnitude of the backlog that communities still lack access to education.

In 1992 the community of Woodford in Bergville, Kwa Zulu Natal identified the need for a high school to alleviate some of the challenges faced by the community. With the success of the school building project twenty-one years ago, at present, this community has taken empowerment to the next level.

Identifying, mobilising and utilising their local resources to strengthen and build social cohesion within their communities, they initiated a library development project in partnership with LegalWise and Philakahle Wellbeing Centre, to build a 120 square metre school library at Ekwaluseni High School in Bergville. The library officially launched on 19 November 2013.

The project has been in progress for eighteen months, built and managed by the community and learners, they raised R20 000 themselves to fund the project in the initial stages.  Individuals from a number of organisations volunteered their time and expertise to ensure that this initiative was a success.  These include learners from the high school itself, members of the Woodford community at large,  volunteers from Youth With A Mission and the COADY International Institute in Canada,  Pastor Green from a local church and many more.

“We have adopted the asset based citizen led development approach. This process draws attention to the resources that are available within the community that can be mobilised to achieve a desired goal. Starting with what you have and building with what you know,” says Lesley Haynes, CSI Manager at LegalWise. The community of Woodford displayed a willingness to find a solution to their challenges, providing LegalWise with the opportunity to build on their whole school development success. “Working with like-minded partners to find solutions that nurture real social change that resonates at a grassroots level is our principle driver,” she says.

Deepening its involvement in sustainable community development, LegalWise focuses on longer-term projects, in which citizens participate in and drive their own development, whilst simultaneously entering into partnerships with external stakeholders. Haynes believes that this is integral to ensuring that the benefits of social investment go beyond a superficial one-size-fits all solution that doesn’t yield results.