Study abroad in South Africa


South Africa

Beautiful Gate is a nonprofit established in 1994 to support families living in the communities of Philippi and Crossroads situated between the larger townships of Gugulethu and Khayelitsha. These communities have grown out of an increasing influx of people seeking work in Cape Town and were originally informal developments. The communities are vibrant and upbeat despite facing challenges including high unemployment, poor access to health care and limited educational opportunities. Beautiful Gate to care for and protect children, empower and preserve families and mobilize the community. Programming includes:


Caitlin Courshon
Fall 2014
Santa Clara University
Psychology and Sociology Major

This semester, I have had the privilege of working for Beautiful Gate South Africa, a non-profit Christian organization, located in Lower Crossroads in East Philppi. The organization focuses on children and family services, with programs including after school education, a child and adolescent HIV center, a children’s home and crisis care center, and a youth resource center. At its core, Beautiful Gate believes that family comes first and works to preserve and protect the families of Lower Crossroads in a variety of ways.

While Beautiful Gate provides a variety of hands-on services, I spend my time working on a history research project headed by the executive director of the organization. Lower Crossroads, the area in which the organization has been located for ten years, has a rather interesting history that has yet to be documented or recorded extensively. Because of the Group Areas Act during the apartheid regime, black men were only allowed to live in Cape Town if they had a pass for work. Their wives and families were not legally allowed to live in the city at the time. Contrary to what the law instructed, many women risked everything and uprooted their lives in the Eastern Cape to move to Cape Town, simply to be with their husbands and keep their families together, exercising what they felt was their right to family life. While these women and their families moved around frequently because they were hiding from the government and often forced out of their homes, many found themselves in Crossroads, a township that quickly grew from a flat plain of bush to a large community of squatters. The government, viewing this community as “out of control,” continuously attempted to force the families out, but many refused and violence broke out intensely and frequently. After years of fighting, many families ended up moving to new areas and starting over; one of these areas was Lower Crossroads. When people first arrived at Lower Crossroads, there was nothing there. No houses, electricity, toilets, or anything. The families built the community from the ground up, waiting almost five years before the government built any houses or schools there, but many of the people still live their today.

My job at Beautiful Gate is to preserve this little piece of history, focusing on the idea of the right to family life even in the midst of violence and struggle. I conduct interviews every Tuesday with elderly men and women at the Masakhane Senior Club down the road from Beautiful Gate in Lower Crossroads. I hear their stories of family, hope, strength, and love in the heart of a very dark time in this country’s history, and I have loved every minute of working on this project. Sometimes the language barrier has been a little tricky and the stories are heartbreaking, but getting to know the elderly men and women has been overwhelmingly heartwarming and incredible.

Beautiful Gate contributes to the betterment of South Africa by focusing on family life in Lower Crossroads. There are a variety of issues in the local community, including lack of sufficient housing, substance abuse, unemployment, poor waste management, and children not staying in the education system, but Beautiful Gate wholeheartedly believes that keeping the family united in the midst of tough times will keep people strong and holding on. Addressing specific issues such as abuse, HIV/Aids, education under the umbrella that is children and family services will contribute to a bettered community in Lower Crossroads and therefore a bettered South Africa.




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