Memories of Sister Aine Hardiman from Mary Newman, former colleague in work with women and children in Nyanga.
Mine is but one perspective but I have so many warm memories of our time together all those years ago in Nyanga – with Sister Aine Hardiman, when she was the Principal of St Mary’s, with prime mover Rose Mbude, supported by the ever capable Nokwezi Manikivana and all the women in the original Etafeni group, and with the constant support of Cheryl Barratt and Dr Mary Roberts of the Quaker Service Fund (QSF).
It was Sister Aine who inspired us in the Early Learning Resource Unit (ELRU) and QSF) to take up the challenge of developing a “model” for women and children living in very difficult circumstances. An approach that would build on the existing knowledge and strengths of the local people in order to deliver a desperately needed service for women and children around support for early childhood development and the involvement of parents or primary caregivers. It was Sister Aine who despite her own very challenging job inspired us to find ways to move quietly but resolutely through the very severe political, social, economic and cultural constraints that were our constant companions. The work was highly stressful, the township was at war with the apartheid system and there we were a group of women, across race lines moving from house to house trying out ideas in order to attempt to develop an appropriate approach, crossing what seemed like intractable boundaries and barriers, sometimes at serious personal risk and all the time learning from one another and the situations that we encountered as we moved along.
Sister Aine’s extraordinary contribution – and I mean extra-ordinary – was her oversight role which was that of constant support and encouragement despite the enormous challenges and setbacks that were our daily diet. These included violent community protests and gun battles with police (on more than one occasion stray bullets went through Rose’s yard). Sister Aine’s huge strength was her faith, her love and commitment to the wider Nyanga community, her ability to stand back from the ownership of ideas, her ability to listen, to contribute, to shoulder criticism (very intense at times) but always to remain resolute in her belief in the small things, the basic building blocks which rest with the people, and as a result, the work began to take shape. In difficult situations Sister Aine was able more often than not to create an atmosphere that built trust and respect between people and that encouraged respect for different points of view. She truly was the human face of what “community development” should be!
Mary Newman, Cape Town -