The Dreamcatcher journey starts in 1990 with a toothache in the fishing village of Melkhoutfontein, 7km from Stilbaai, on the Garden Route of South Africa.
The Group Areas Act was the title of three acts of the Parliament of South Africa enacted under the Apartheid government. The acts assigned racial groups to different geographical areas and excluded people of colour from living in the most developed areas – with the majority forcibly removed to ‘townships’. This impacted significantly on community cohesion, well-being, and a significant number of people now had to commute over large distances to be able to work.
Stilbaai acquired municipal status in 1966 and appealed to the government to urgently proclaim Melkhoutfontein as an area for people of colour and to establish a township. Studies led by Lundahl over 20 years (Lundahl et al 1967; Lundahl & Kriel, 1987) identified that Melkhoutfontein had evolved into reoccurring abject poverty. The Human Research Council of South Africa (1991) found Melkhoutfontein was one of the most deprived communities in the country with one of the highest levels of Tuberculosis. Apartheid prohibited social integration -and interaction – this bred mistrust and hostility on both sides. Fishing, the main source of income for many community members, had all but dried up by the mid-1980s, and by 1992 there was a 70% unemployment rate.
At this time Anthea, founder of Dreamcatcher, was living in Stilbaai working as a dental nurse in the practice of her surgeon husband Hennie. Anthea was already engaging with the residents of Melkhoutfontein and assisted the Human Research Council in the above study on the socio-economic status of the community. In 1990 Anthea had a chance encounter with Moses Kleinhans in Stibaai. Anthea had parked her car adjacent to the ‘coloureds only’ entrance to the Post Office and observed Moses was in agony from toothache. Anthea offered to take Moses to her husband’s surgery – at the time there was no dental clinic in Melkhoutfontein. Once the procedure was over Anthea drove Moses home to Melkhoutfontein. Moses was a senior patriarch of the community and had survived two shipwrecks. Recognising genuine empathy, concern and humanity in Anthea, he shared this encounter with his peers.
Two weeks later, on returning for further dental treatment, Moses explained his concerns and that of his peers, about the destitution in Melkhoutfontein and its impact on the community. They wanted to collaborate with someone they trusted to find solutions to the challenges they faced. Their first action was for Moses and Willem to accompany Anthea on a journey through the community and the surrounding area, to witness the hardship at first hand.
In collaboration with their priest, the second action was to invite Anthea to attend St Augustine’s church the following Sunday, at the time the largest congregation in Melkhoutfontein. At the end of the sermon Anthea was introduced to the congregation where she shared her commitment to help the community to collaborate on solutions and priorities. Thanking Anthea, Moses said “Jy is ons Droomvanger” (“you are our Dreamcatcher”). This was a watershed moment, and the journey of Dreamcatcher begins. . .
Anthea was already working extensively in Stilbaai and was pivotal in setting up Jagersbosch Community Care Centre in 1987 for ageing residents and those with physical challenges. Anthea pioneered the extension of these services to Melkhoutfontein in 1992 which led to the first care home in the community – Soeterus (sweet rest). This integrated a clinic, social housing, craft centre, community hall -and botanical garden. A key feature of Soeterus was that it was predominantly built by women from the community who were trained in building skills.
In parallel to this Anthea was heavily involved in tourism in the Stilbaai area – today one of the top tourist destinations in South Africa. In 1992 she co-founded and managed the Stilbaai Publicity Association which included the opening of the first tourism bureau in Stilbaai, which was followed by a satellite tourist information office in Melkhoutfontein. This become the first tourist information bureau to be awarded accreditation in the province. Anthea was also pivotal in the development and promotion of many tourism routes and destinations. Some of this early work is captured in the film ‘A Brand, Brave New World of Social Justice’.
Due to this pioneering work Anthea was invited to serve on a range of Western Cape and national tourism authorities and boards to represent communities in South Africa. For three years she served as Chairperson of the Transformation Marketing Committee on the South African Tourism Board. Anthea’s motivation for serving on these platforms was to grow tourism responsibly and sustainably through transitioning South Africa’s exclusionary tourism offering of a classical tick-box exercise of ‘bush (safaris), berg (mountains) and beach’ in a few tourism hot spots. The offering lacked meaningful community engagement or wider societal benefits. This approach short-changed tourists who didn’t experience the ‘true’ South Africa, unsurpassed in cultural diversity -and environmental attributes. Anthea’s vision for tourism was one with inclusive growth and affirmation, celebrating South Africa’s diversity and culture, whilst seeing the benefits of tourism spread over a wider geographical area.
Despite her best efforts she was met predominantly with resistance and the status quo in tourism largely remained. At the end of Anthea’s tenure of serving on multiple boards, frustrated with lack of change, she returned to grass roots fired up to collaborate with communities to make a tangible difference focusing on enterprise creation. Anthea researched the barriers inhibiting sustainable enterprise and tourism development in townships across the country. Key barriers were reoccurring poverty, inadequate education, lack of purposed skills, access to growth-sector industries, and poor environmental quality. Anthea founded Dreamcatcher South Africa NPC to address these challenges with the following vision to enhance the tourism offering:
At the time there no integrated model to address the plethora of inhibitors to sustainable tourism growth and socio-economic development in townships where most of the South African population lived. To realise this the Dreamcatcher team developed a integrated model embracing the 2000 Millennium Development Goals (and subsequent 2015 Sustainable Development Goals). We undertook the following activities:
Through our pioneering models we are proud to have transitioned social, economic and environmental challenges into opportunities disrupting historical practice. Our inclusive, integrated approach addresses all the Sustainable Development Goals. We have facilitated the successful development of numerous enterprises some of whom are still in place after several decades. Others who have now sadly deceased have passed on their enterprises to their children. We continue to empower the development of new enterprises.
We have facilitated trips to South Africa for thousands of visitors from over 30 countries – many of whom are repeat visitors and our biggest ambassadors. We have expanded the tourism offering and increased the geographical spread of tourism channelling the benefits to peripheral entrepreneurial services and communities. Household income has increased, with it the quality of life, and impact on the next generation. With money circulating in the community, enterprises now have funds to support their children and grandchildren to go into higher education leading to more sustainable futures. This highlights the impact that tourist’s discerning decision can have on local socio-economic development and environmental protection.
Our work is globally recognised and we have won numerous awards and accolades featuring in multiple global publications. We exchange knowledge and collaborate with local and global partners including Universities, training institutions and government.
The pandemic was a challenging time for all of us. During the pandemic we actively supported our enterprises, their extended families, and communities. Thanks to our supporters and funders we donated over 24,000 meals, PPE, personal hygiene products and supplements. We also provided phone data, so families could keep in contact, and money to cover power costs.
During 2022 we resumed facilitating visits to South Africa for tourists and volunteers with renewed interest including stays in local communities as part of their itineraries.
3 decades after Dreamcatcher founder Anthea promised and made a pact with community Patriarch Moses to help his community, our work continues. Holistically we are fulfilling Nelson Mandela’s inauguration vision ‘To work together to create a better future for all our people’.