I had so many doubts throughout the JDD and the CMP courses: were we wasting our time? Was I annoying people with my very middle class, very journalistic questions, was I, were we, going to make a difference? These questions plagued me throughout every visit to the township until one of the visits to the township, where I heard something so positive that it made me stop questioning the project and rather focus my energy on the ways in which we were, as a group, able to make a difference in the community.
As Daniel Charvat mentioned earlier, the wallposter that we produced created a lot of business for the man that he initially interviewed. Although I was not involved in this interviewing process, I accompanied Daniel to see him, which shed some light on the purpose of the project and helped me to see it in a more positive manner. The wallposter had made the community more aware of the services that this man offers and in this way, generated more business for him than he had had in weeks. Hearing this man tell Daniel how excited he was about the new customers filled me with hope, and helped me to understand that the JDD and CMP courses have not been about making a world of difference for an entire community - they have been about initiating change for at least one person. If all we did in this project was to make the community more aware of its members, and the services that they offer, then we have in effect done or duties.
On a slightly less positive note, an element of my skepticism has remained intact until the very last meeting we had, where, after it was over, the entire hall filled out and we were left with an empty hall and no feedback from the community. This made me tired, frustrated, and questioning the whole purpose of the project. The old adage, "you can't help people who won't help themselves came to mind".
However, inasmuch as this course has been challenging, and sometimes, downright frustrating, the delight of one or two of the community members who felt that we had changed something in their lives, is enough to sustain me through writing yet another blog post. That said, this course needs a more rigid structure, and a definite set of guidelines which hopefully our own feedback can provide for the next group of third year journalism students.
Did we complete the circle? I'm not sure. We documented peoples' problems; opened our hearts and our minds to the opinions, lifestyles, viewpoints and lives of others; and did something positive for one or two individuals. However, to be honest, I have not been sure from the beginning what "completing the circle" actually means, so perhaps the point of this blog post is rather to say that this course needs to go on a serious theory diet: where it can drop the jargon, cut out the focus on identity formation and get rid of the negativity, because Grahamstown, and especially Joza, is not a place for academic, pie-in-the-sky rhetoric, nor is it a appropriate for those who do not believe that even the smallest change, is change nonetheless.