A new life, a different story

Posted November 1st, 2010 in development, Personal Fre by Frérieke

I miss Africa, that’s for sure. “What do you miss most?” people often ask. My students. The youngsters. The ones that gave me my direction in life, the ones living in harsh conditions AND having lots of hope. I miss working on the media project with them, hearing their voices, getting inspired. I miss working on diversity. What I miss most is the direct contact and immediate results that could be seen in Africa.

A new life, a different story. I now work for Plan, an international non-profit organization, making a big impact worldwide, ensuring childrights. Working in an office in The Netherlands could make me forget what I am working for. Today though I watched our new international video, which created a smile on my face, goosebumps on my arms…it is a great privilegde to work on those issues on a daily base, to be able to live my passions and create a life in The Netherlands which goes way beyond what I thought it would be like..

The youngsters here in The Netherlands are inspiring too! Lots of young girls have been volunteering in the events I organized last month. I am looking forward to connecting my African young friends with my new Dutch young friends. Innovation, technology, media…still great passions of mine and great tools to facilitate the connection!

Will I go back to Africa? …who knows?

I used to live from 6 months to 6 months…afraid to loose my freedom… I didn’t want to add any kind of structure to my life…and now? I am able to deal with that fear and feel I do not have to limit myself. I have really found what I love working on and who knows living in The Netherlands for the coming 2 years might fit in with that vision?

Mobile connection with family living in extreme poverty in Mozambique

Posted December 10th, 2008 in development, Technology & Innovation by Frerieke

By Frerieke van Bree

I just spoke to Nico, my young friend in Mozambique. He goes to grade 10 (15 years old). He and his family live on a small farm near Prado de Xhai Xhai. They live in extreme poverty (< 1 dollar a day), but are happy! Nico is a very clever and hard working young man, who told me he really needs a bicycle to go to school. His family shares a mobile phone. I have been trying to reach them the past weeks and finally got through now, so great! It is just incredible to know that this young man (Nico) has the ability to reach out and create possibilities through new technologies. I am so enthusiastic about Mobile Technology in the 3rd World!

So now what?
a. I want money for Nico’s bicycle and
b. I’ll figure out a way to get the money/or bicycle there

When and where did I meet Nico?
…a few weeks ago I was very lucky to be taken on a holiday by my mum and brother, who flew in from The Netherlands. We’ve rented a car and basically drove to the places that inspired us at that moment. One of the things we did was a visit to Mozambique. Our rental car was having a hard time on the roads full of potholes, our eyes enjoyed each and every bit of it. What a wonderful country! What an extremely friendly people (especially compared to South Africa…I guess the absence of the the fear oppression -Apartheid- provided space for a community to be developed, rather then a culture of segregation and aggression)Stepping in a different world, separated from this “luxury” South African world. No big shopping malls, not a lot of cars (yeah sure in Maputo), mostly:…no running water, no electricity, no money, no technology. Rural, like really rural. Small villages, compiled of traditional woven or clay houses, fruits and small farms.

Coconuts and palm trees all along the road, just like ..cashew nuts…in plastic bags floating in the wind, lots of them connected to a tree. The roads are full of Potholes, women and children walking. Baskets of fruit and wood on their heads. Some bicycles. Lots of Vodacom and Cell C. Mobile phones everywhere! no landlines. no computers. but hey…they all have mobile phones…can you see the potential!

Mozambique has been independent since 1975 and was colonized by the Portuguese (you don’t come far with English!…I was lucky to being able to communicate in Spanish). The civil war (between ’82 – ’92) has its scars visible all over the country. Firstly all the do-not-enter signs everywhere….the land mines dangerously waiting for some innocent child to play freely. Secondly the ruins all over the place! Each little village has the remainders of what used to be a great and wealthy place, beautiful buildings, not being touched by anybody at the moment.. the informal trade gathers around the previous villages.

We met Nico while setting up our tent in Prado de Xhai Xhai. He wanted to make some extra money for his studies, which he got by assisting us to set up camp. After that he invited us over to his house in a small rural village, where we met his father and little brothers. They climbed up the palmtree to get us some fresh coconuts! (check video!). It was such a delightful surprise to being able to connect with a family, together with my family from a completely different back ground.

More video will follow. Pictures are available here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/9399948@N05/sets/72157608360281208/

HOW TO: technology and implementation

Posted November 23rd, 2008 in development, Personal Fre, South Africa, Technology & Innovation by Frérieke
How to: technology-and-implementation
Techie is a term, derivative of the word technology, for a person who displays a great, sometimes even obsessive, interest in technology, high-tech devices, and particularly computers. (source: Wikipedia)
The word geek is a slang term, noting individuals as “a peculiar or otherwise odd person, especially one who is perceived to be overly obsessed with one or more things. (source:Wikipedia)

by Frerieke van Bree

I don’t consider myself a real ‘techie’, but I do have a strong passion for technology.
And although the word ‘geek’ is often used in obsessive computer/technology/connectivity situations, looking at the explanation on Wikipedia makes me think: Yes I am a geek. A big one. I am obsessed with combining my passions (humanity, technology, design, leadership). I am a people loving-passion following-intercultural connecting-voices facilitating and human empowering GEEK.

Last year I attended the Web of Change conference in Canada. Being among some of the brightest web focused changemakers from The States and Canada was extraordinary. People like Peter Deitz, Marc Laporte, Michael Silberman and many others inspired me to hold on to the thought that technology can make a difference in the lives of many underprivileged people. Attending the (mostly white) Wordcamp South Africa (a gathering of fans of the open source blogging software WordPress ) opened my eyes to how big the gap between technology implementation in the privileged (mostly white) and implementation and usage in the underprivileged (mostly black/colored) communities is.
Recently I visited MobileActive08 in Johannesburg. A (to me) very inspiring, but also overwhelming mix of geeks, techies (including Google, Microsoft,..), funders and implementers, who all  make a difference in the world through mobile technology. I was blown away by what is already being done with the mobile phone in the developing world. A few personal highlights: meeting Erik Hersman and getting to know the crisis report enabling Ushahidi and listening to Guy Berger and his Journalism project The News is Coming in Grahamstown, South Africa.

Being at those conferences made me feel like being back at University. Our faculty of Architecture was considered to be the ‘soft’ faculty of the Technical University of Delft in The Netherlands, other faculties used to make jokes about the ‘cut and glue’ course we were attending. The 80% male-20% female rate in Delft, being the only girl on our Windsurf association board, living with 4 bright men in a house…it all made me feel like a black sheep in a world of Men and Technology. And after university it was: being a woman in the building industry, being a woman in a (unfortunately still!) predominantly white-male dominated South African society and now I ‘torture’ myself with….visiting technology conferences…

My insecurity at conferences tells me: What am I doing here? Where’s my IPhone/blackberry/apple computer? How do I talk tech? How on earth do I catch up with all knowledge in this audience? It is like being back at University…..I don’t belong here.

Fortunately, my secure and balanced me says: does it matter? My vision is clear, my passion is big.
Go and explore girl, make those connections, learn as much as possible.

Major Non-profit organizations have their own Technology consultant on board and come up with the most creative and innovative uses of technology on the ground. Great. But….
I wonder: How to get the message of what is possible with technology out to the many “heroes in underprivileged communities”??? How to hear the needs and ideas of young brights minds in the developing world??? How to empower Africans by African ingenuity??? How to have Africans say NO to the brain drain? How to have Africa really be in the hands of Africans!!

I enjoyed reading Ethan Zuckermans words on bridge figures {…we need bridge figures, people who can help build connections between cultures. We need xenophiles, people who are interested in the whole world and in building conversations that break out of the homophily trap.}

If people ask me what my secret skill in life is I say I am a connector and facilitator. I facilitate a space where the one can meet the other, where people from The developed West meet the poor South, young meet old, You meet Them, They meet YOU and YOU get to know YOURSELF. I facilitate a space of no judgement, listening and curiosity. A space of fun! and smiles 🙂

Back to the title of this blog post: {How To: technology and implementation}

How to improve the implementation of Technology in order to eradicate poverty/empower the underprivileged/bridge the implementation gap?
My two cents…

  • Improve the language of technology: right now it is too techie and not easy accessible for all. It can not be read/reached by the communities on the ground that know best what is needed in their village.
  • Include (underprivileged) youngsters!! The bright minds of the future should be included in the conversation of today! Let them be inspired and generate ideas!
  • Support bridge figures! Give them a feeling of -belonging- in the world of Men and Tech! Create (more) scholarships for fancy conferences!!

I am so happy that I was able to step over my own foolish insecurity and explore and exchange at the above mentioned conferences. Great things come out as a result! Me being the connector enables underprivileged students from Khayelitsha to become mobile reporters on Afrigadget !!!

I promise I will never doubt the impact I am making in the world and the fact that I matter…
I have experienced a shift from ‘not belonging’ to a ‘knowing who I am and what my passion and purpose in life is’
Being a bridge is the best! Thanks COSAT learners! And thanks you Tech-savvy global inhabitants!

Comments Off on Transformation in development

Transformation in development

Posted October 26th, 2008 in development by Frérieke

khayelitsha festivalrufus, heart of healing

By Frerieke van Bree

“The City of Cape Town sponsored the Khayelitsha Festival Business Tour because we believe it will stimulate growth and development among emerging businesses in Khayelitsha. Further investment is essential to addressing the key developmental challenges of the region. We need to increase business and job opportunities in order to improve living standards and promote overall growth in Cape Town’s economy.” So says Cape Town Executive Mayor, Helen Zille.

Businesses, social entrepreneurs, NGO’s, governmental structures, musicians, youth and other individuals from different (local) communities gathered this weekend in the OR Tambo hall in township Khayelitsha, Cape Town to celebrate and further explore the potential and opportunities that this emerging place (township khayelitsha) offers during the 3 day event, the Khayelitsha festival!

Our friends of the Heart of Healing (you’ll find Rufus of the Heart of Healing in the above photograph) co-organized this 3 day festival, which is based on the very successful Soweto Festival that has been organized over the last 3 years in Soweto, the black urban area in Johannesburg.

Three days of music, entertainment and information market attracted young and old, rich and poor. The Khayelitsha festival (that says on it’s website to be “free”) did leave out the poorest though… It was heartbreaking to see all those individuals (mostly youngsters/children) begging at the gate in order to collect the 10 Rand (to be compared more or less with the price of one bread and a pack of milk) that the entrée would cost them.

I received some free tickets for the COSAT students to attend the festival. One of the COSAT learners, Dinono even performed live on stage! Dinono shared her poem with lots of passion and dedication with hundreds of youngsters around the stage. Well done girl! (unfortunately, the sound of the attached video is very bad, but please be inspired by this young individual that is so full of fire). Dinono…please share your poem with us here online?! And also your story about it and around it!

What an opportunities in Khayelitsha. It is a booming business…you better be there and be there now, because hey….(soccer worldcup) 2010 is around the corner and before we know, all shacks will be replaced by mixed used developments! Apartments, retail, offices, public nodes….a diverse and lively place for all! (at least….if we choose to make this happen!)

It takes a woman with balls (respect for Cape Town mayor Helen Zille!) to be a stand for transformation and development!

Local government officials within the building department that we (architects) are dealing with, seem to lack these balls to take responsibility and make the decisions that will enable investors/architects/community to make development plans reality. A few weeks ago, after a meeting I had within the community (to design development plans together with community), I spoke on the phone with one of those (local) government officials and was told to “stay away from local community, because we (government) will be hold accountable for the false hope you (the architects) create and as a result, the community will blame us (government).”…yeah sure…15 years after the end of Apartheid and still so many people struggle to keep the rain outside of the tin board structures and try to avoid being raped during the dark night (no street lights) on their way from shack to public outhouse…. Who to blame for this mister local government official? Why do you choose the way of no commitment, no passion, no action?

I see the Khayelitsha festival, with the created connections between investors and potential as a first step in the process towards actual implementation of development plans.

It takes secondly more individuals like Helen Zille in council who understand that risks need to be taken to see actual transformation in Africa. It takes government officials in the building sector who are willing to take responsibility, who are willing to open their eyes towards development and are willing to work together with passionate planners/developers/architects (like us www.makekadesigns.com). A Paradigm shift within council is a crucial step in the process towards actual implementation. It is an important shift that will lead to improved living standards and increase of economic situation in the Township!

Opportunities can’t be seen unless we choose to discover our blind spots….it takes courage and commitment to take on this new paradigm of thinking. This challenging exercise might appear to be a very scary one; shifting away from the known to the unknown (away from our comfort zone) is not something that we do on a regular base….not a government official, nor you or me…Opportunity and transformation will be experienced if we choose to do so!

IR. FJ van Bree or MSc

Posted June 20th, 2006 in development by Frérieke

MSc 04 – Graduation Project

Posted May 10th, 2006 in development by Frérieke
The building (a strip of 200 m) contains modules that offer place to neighbour organisations. The building acts as a wall (barriere) between the city (rational designed) and the park (english landscape). In the same time it forms an extension of both worlds. It appears closed to the city, open (veranda) to the park and free to the sky (roofterrace).Intimate places within this long volume are created by positioning and variations of patios.

MSc 01 Project

Posted December 6th, 2005 in development by Frérieke

june 2004

Project in Spain

Posted December 5th, 2005 in development by Frérieke

Jan 2004

Internship @ Marc Prosman Architects BV

Posted December 4th, 2005 in development by Frérieke

maart 2002 – juli 2002