How did the “Dreamcatcher” do it? What happened?

Anthea became especially creative to survive the disapproval of the community where she lived, to encourage people who would take notice, to listen. Sticking to her promise to Moses, she managed to recruit and motivate a few white retirees with a range of skills in Stilbaai, to work with her to make the difference she sought. To ensure that the retired white population had access to home care and support in their homes, she spearheaded the development of the Jagersbosch Community Care Centre in Stilbaai. Many of those retirees appreciated her passion to create a better life for them and through their association with her, committed to helping her in the various disciplines she needed assistance in.

Whilst developing Jagersbosch into a model care centre which would lead to her involvement in the development of a post Apartheid Strategy and Policy on Care and Ageing for the new National Department of Social Services: Anthea worked systematically with the impoverished community in Melkhoutfontein as well, focused and on a mission to motivate them to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. After training in building skills they joined in to help her build a community care centre called “Soeterus”, also to the benefit of the aged, physically challenged and those at risk. Anthea offered training, skills transfer to a number of women in the community to develop their own tourist product to offer to international tourists. She would eventually duplicate the unique model she developed to 20 other towns and cities on tourist routes in South Africa. Anthea also spearheaded the formation of a strong, forward thinking local tourism bureau to further increase tourism and investment into Stilbaai.

Dreamcatcher - Anthea teaching stilbaaiNaming her local economical development plan, “Changing Lanes to make Mandela’s Dream Work”, Anthea’s prime aim was sustainability and self-sufficiency. Entertaining no handouts, but commitment instead, the plan was geared to give the local people (especially women), the confidence, skills and access to opportunities to develop tourism products, become part of that tourism plant as tourism entrepreneurs on the one hand and to diversify the local tourism experience from an environment and nature based experience, to include community based encounters as opposed to staged cultural experiences.

With neither the means nor chance to travel or use the facilities tourists did; all the fledgling entrepreneurs and their community knew about tourists, was that they could get jobs as servants, gardeners and child minders when the tourist came to town during summer and Easter. To become tourist entrepreneurs and services meant that the people of Melkhoutfontein had to reinvent themselves and develop a new tourist offering of Stilbaai to add to its rich environmental and nature based attributes, the chance for visitors to “meet the people”. For the women who signed up as entrepreneurs in Melkhoutfontein, it meant they had start thinking of themselves as a service and no longer a servant. For the tourist fraternity in Stilbaai, with smart houses converted to bed and breakfasts,it was unthinkable that international tourists would want to meet the people and stay with them in the township.

The Dreamcatcher training and mentoring programmes entails significant hands on skills transfer, mentoring and knowledge transfer programmes to which the entrepreneurs commit for at least 5 years. These programmes are updated every year or as the tourism industry and market changes. Commitment to their own respective communities to look back and help out in projects, is a pre-requisite for the entrepreneurs to stay on board. The local communities, the environment and especially the youth, are critical factors which are part of all mentoring programmes.

Anthea teaching wasteMost people involved in tourism, considered her daft. (“Clearly some still do, hopefully some changing along the way,..”) an unfazed Anthea said. It was clear to her at the time that the tourism industry in South Africa was not ready to support her and did not recognise the profound importance of what she was proposing. Community development was geared to hand-outs and grants, rather than linked to long term sustainability through stimulating income generated by the people themselves to become entrepreneurs, job creators and improving quality of life themselves instead of waiting for hand outs and menial jobs.

Motivated by the rejection, ridicule and lack of commitment on a wide front to include local community based experiences into a tourism package or route:. Anthea took products she initiated called “Homestays with Kamamma & Cook-up with Kamamma”, into the international marketplace herself, changing this barrier into an opportunity. She was convinced that one could only “develop” for a period; that future plans and funding should be linked to sustainable outcomes. This meant that she had to work towards a “happy ending” from the start and implied that a developed individual and product had to generate income and contribute to grow themselves and the local community as businesses themselves.

Besides dealing with the fiercely protective industry selling a different South Africa, Anthea was proposing and actively pursuing the objective to facilitate opportunities for tourists to visit communities, engage with locals in authentic lifestyle encounters, sleep over, eat and going truly local in townships. This in stark contrast to driving past the communities as as if they did not exist or staring at them through a bus window. She wanted to make it possible for people from abroad to meet the locals and for the locals to become part of the visitor experience.

The Dreamcatcher approach is holistic. It includes as equally important, the people, the local environment and the quality of the experience for the community and the tourist into consideration. A tourism product or entrepreneur is not developed in isolation. This approach is significantly different to that of mainstream tourism product development. It is an approach and philosophy which recognises the importance of a community based approach to tourism development and growth and that this development has significant potential to impact positively on the local people. This approach was particularly important to apply in socio-economically depressed areas situated within an already developed tourist route, which was and still is, the case in South Africa.

The Dreamcatcher thus believed that the value of this as experienced by the people, whether they are the locals or the visitors,will ultimately impact upon tourism in the country as a whole and that the future would prove her right or wrong. She found new ways to deal with adversity, turning barriers into opportunities.