Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Year of Reconstruction

Today as we end our year of Reconstruction a new journey lies ahead as we continue the use of technology to empower communities. Having completed part of this exciting journey it is also an opportunity to reflect on how this journey has changed my life and the lives of many others.

How can I ever forget the first day 23 February 2008 when we gathered at CPUT for the first time and the room was full of uncertainty not knowing how long we'll be running this course or what to expect. This year went beyond our wildest dreams and I believe it is the beginning of great things ahead. This year has had its ups and downs, as we unfortunately had 2 of our members not completing the year with us. But that was never going to make our Reconstructed team despondent. They were still persevering under the pressures and decided to complete this year. Not only did we empower the Reconstructed Team but we also launched Mom 2.0 (mothers in the community being empowered with the use of technology). We've had so much fun while learning.We've also had the privilege of meeting great individuals who shared their knowledge with us this year. Special thanks to Rafiq, Ramon, Johan, Gerhard, Nils, Micke and Pam who really empowered the Reconstructed team.

We also presented at the ZA WWW 2008 conference (won best poster of the conference award), Highway Africa Conference, Huddlemind's Nomadic Dinner, 27Dinner in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth just but to name but a few. Another highlight was when we had the opportunity to be live on SABC2's Morning Live on 24th October 2008. This was such a wonderful experience for many of the team as we believe that all our hard work was finally being acknowledged. Not only did we get some attention from the media but we also had the honour of gathering with peers in the Social Media industry.

Seeing how lives were transformed through the use of technology was encouraging. When we started the Drug Advice and Support (DAS) we never expected that it would have such an impact on a nation. Since its inception we've already had more than 50,000 messages, almost 11,000 conversations and closing in on 5000 contacts to date. This in itself was incredible as we began offering advice and support for hundreds of young people on their mobile phones, Tuesdays and Thursdays between 3 and 5pm. The Reconstructed blog also continued to grow as the team increased their contributions with the goal of reaching 1000 blog posts by the end of 2008 (The good news is that they've achieved this goal read all about it here).

The technologies we've used this year and that proved to be useful in the Social Media for Social Change (SMSC) course were:
- Blogging (Using blogger)
- Social Networking (FaceBook and Ning)
- Micro-blogging (Twitter and Spoink)
- Instant Messageging (Google Chat, MXit, The Grid)
- Web Literacy
- VOIP (Skype and Fring)
- PodCasting

The climax of the year was when we had The Reconstruction graduation 12 December 2008 at Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT). Seeing all the excited graduates and proud parents, family was such a wonderful moment for me personally. We also launched our Podcasts and Angel project at the graduation which was just a cherry on the top.

Well with 2008 almost coming to an end we are looking forward to 2009 and we would like to thank everyone who has contributed and shown interest in the Reconstructed project. We will continue on this journey as we empower communities in tension using technology.

We would like to wish you and your families a wonderful and blessed New Year for 2009.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

DAS on Christmas Day

Today while the world is celebrating Christmas Day and enjoying all the festivities, we decided to have a Drug Advice Support (DAS)for those who are in need. Not only were we able to use technology to ensure people have a lifeline on Christmas Day it was also a good opportunity for the DAS advisers just to relax and reflect how good the year has been.

Although it was a worldwide holiday we still had more than 1200 messages coming through to the DAS service. We spoke to 130 people in the 2hour session and I would like to thank the advisers for sacrificing their time with the families in order to use technology to bring about a change in the lives of many others.

Merry Christmas and GOD Bless

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Changing the World One Tweet at a Time

With the rise of Twitter in the world of Web2.0 it has been interesting to see how people have used this Micro-blogging social tool. Being used from conversations to reporting, marketing to publishing and generating traffic to you website, to just share information with your network. With the Reconstructed we've decided to use Twitter as a means of reconstructing ex-drug addicts and ex-gang members.

The young men and women were exposed to twitter and given the right to use it in a way they feel would benefit them best. They began using twitter for conversations with one another, sharing positive stories with one another, encouraging each other and to share information relevant to substance abuse and their communities. They also used it for reporting in order for others following them to keep track of how they are feeling or what they busy doing. Twitter has become part of their support structure and being used to leave positive footprints in the world. Not only is Twitter being used to support themselves but they also using it to reach out to other Tweeple who needs to hear a Tweet of hope. They are really changing the World one Tweet at a time...

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Help with social problems on MXit

Yesterday Angel was in the news again after being launched a week ago. An article by Yolandé Hayward from The Weekend Post in Port Elizabeh "Help with Social Problems in MXit":

AFTER successfully using MXit to counsel youngsters with drug abuse problems, a young entrepreneur is now using this networking tool to equip them with knowledge on various social more

Friday, December 19, 2008

Using Free and Open Source Software to fight drug abuse

An article appeared in the UWC campus newsletter...

"An increase in gang and drug activity on the Cape Flats in the Western Cape Province has been causing tension within communities. These activities have a negative impact on citizens in these communities and contribute to a sense of helplessness. Reconstruction or rehabilitation of ex-drug addicts and ex-gangsters are challenging due to communities with tension not being able to empower these citizens or the addicts themselves being unwilling to be rehabilitated. This presented the opportunity for the use of technology as part of the helping substance abusers to rebuild their lives.

A project called DAS@Mxit was the brain child of Marlon Parker, an IT lecturer from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT). The project uses mobile and web technologies, including the popular cell phone chat application Mxit. In collaboration between CPUT and UWC's Free Software Innovation Unit in ICS, a system was developed to offer counselling, advice, frequently asked questions for people impacted by drug and substance abuse. DAS@Mxit is aimed at (but not limited to) MXit users. This allows a user to send and receive text and multimedia messages to and from PCs and phones via the Internet, rather than with standard SMS technology." ...

Paul and Wesley, key architects and developers on the DAS project (

Reconstructed Podcast episode 3: The Story of Craig Ross

With the festive season upon us, many are thinking about what new gadget or technology will make the perfect gift for Christmas. With the reconstructed graduation a week ago and the launch of our Podcast series we are releasing Episode 3 of the Reconstructed Podcast, The Story of Craig Ross, which can be downloaded here.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

DAS call

Here one of the Mom 2.0 ladies, Jenny Petersen, calls a lady who chatted to one of our advisors for support about a social issue. This all took place within our Drug Advice Support (DAS) session. The session today also produced 3106 messages in our session and DAS will be online Christmas day to assist those om need.

Posted by ShoZu

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Tweetup in nature

Today I joined the group of The Reconstructed for a day out in Wellington. After an exciting year working with these amazing men and women it was good just to have a relaxing day to reflect and plot new ideas for the Reconstructed project. We having lots of fun with sport activities (using twitter name on soccer field), swimming, eating and ofcourse having mini tweetups. The holidays are here and lots to look forward to.

Posted by ShoZu

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

DAS celebrates 10 000 conversations

Today Drug Advice Support (DAS)(using mobile instant messaging to offer advice and support for people at risk) has reached an incredible milestone of more than 10000 conversations(10 081 to be exactly) since our inception almost 5 months ago. This is a wonderful achievement as we've received more than 40 000 messages with over 4000 subscribers to our service. The use of technology with people who cares has made it possible to reach so many people across our nation and this is only the beginning. This service has proved that lives can be changed and that there is hope for our young people as we fight this battle of substance abuse and other social ills an instant message at a time.

Angel on MXit to support HIV/AIDS in South Africa

With the increase of AIDS deaths in South Africa, as part of the Angel project we decided to make relevant information available to users on MXit.

"South Africa is currently experiencing one of the most severe AIDS epidemics in the world. At the end of 2007, there were approximately 5.7 million people living with HIV in South Africa, and almost 1,000 AIDS deaths occurring every day."...

With technology in our hands we are able to empower those who are affected by HIV/AIDS and see how we can bring about the reconstruction of our nation through education on every possible platform. We hope with information and contact details at their fingertips on Angel (we will expand this over the next few weeks) that this will be a step in the right direction in educating our youth.

How to access Angel on MXit:

- Go to Menu
- Contacts
- Add Contacts
- MXit Services
- Add the following (Service Name: Angel, Nickname: Angel)
- Accept Contact

Monday, December 15, 2008

Opening Address at Reconstructed Graduation 2008

With such alot of excitement around the Reconstrcuted graduation, Prof. Alexander, HOD Information Technology at CPUT, gave a moving opening address that is available for download here.

Find your Angel on MXit

Last Friday, 12 December 2008, at the graduation of The Reconstructed we launched a new 24hour service "Angel". The Angel project on MXit was birthed out of the need that many of our young people need to be informed about the dangers of substance abuse on a platform that they will be able to interact with. Angel is a collaboration between CPUT, MXit and Impact Direct that provides MXit users with information concerning: substance abuse, HIV/Aids, Abuse, depression, stress and coping.

Each of these topics are then further explored. For example Substance Abuse have topics such as "What is Substance Abuse?, What is Addiction?, Type of Substances, Stages of drug dependency, Signs of Drug Use and categories of drugs. Under the Type of substances Angel gives more details about the most common drugs and this will be updated on a regular basis. Each of these substances are then further broken down. Each drug will be described and discussed (Street names, how it is used, characteristics, short term effects, long term effects and withdrawal symptoms).

Other than just giving more information about the various topics Angel also provide a "Find your Angel" service which gives users of Angel contact numbers to various services in the different provinces. We realised that many people don't know where to go to for help when facing certain social issues and we're trying to help people especially our youth with the info in a way that they are comfortable with.

Angel is an additional service to DAS (Drug Advice Support which only runs Tue and Thu 3-5pm) and runs 24/7 and no cost involved to subscribe to the service. We are excited to see how Angel will be used to change lives accross our nation.

How to access Angel on MXit:

- Go to Menu
- Contacts
- Add Contacts
- MXit Services
- Add the following (Service Name: Angel, Nickname: Angel)
- Accept Contact

Saturday, December 13, 2008

First Reconstructed PodCast

As part of the Reconstructed Graduation we launched our first official Podcast with the help of Jayne Morgan from Podcart, who did an awesome job with our reconstructed team capturing the essence of what we do in Communities In Tension (CiT).

Our first podcast gives an introduction to 5 of the Reconstructed team whose lives have been reconstructed and who's using technology now to empower their communities. This podcast will impact your life and its amazing to see how technology can be used to transform the lives of individuals. TO download our first Podcast go to Impact Direct.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Reconstructed Graduation 2008

Today Impact Direct had the privilege celebrating with the Reconstructed graduates as they've successfully completed a year of Social Media training. Not only was it wonderful to see what they've achieved in such a short space of time but the atmosphere at the graduation was such a wonderful experience that many would agree that this year has been special and an inspiration to many.

The graduation was opened by the dean of Faculty of Informatics and Design, Prof. Johannes Cronje, who welcomed the graduates, family, friends and colleagues. Pastor Roger Petersen followed with a prayer not only for the graduation but for every young person who needs hope roaming the streets and in our communities in Cape Town. The Reconstructed project also launched two new services namely their first podcast (you can download it right here under multimedia) and the "Angel Service" on MXit. I followed by sharing a little about the year that has passed (will post soon) and then the moment we all waited for, THE RECONSTRUCTED GRADUATION.

Every graduate made us all proud, not only the people who were present but surely they are a beacon of hope for every person who needs that light in their darkness.

So congratulations to all our graduates: Brent Williams, Clinton Liederman, Craig Ross, Jerome Mias, Michael Abrahams, Ricardo Johnson, Clive-marcus Evertse, Jason Martin, Kyle Jonck, Jerod Aspelling, Monique Theron, Shameez Liederman, Nazier Fortune and Bradley Naidoo.

Also special prizes went to Craig Ross (Best Blogger), Clinton Liederman (Best Micro-blogger), Jerome Mias (Mobile Blogger), Kyle Jonck (Twitster "Twitter Gangster"), Jason Martin (Most Innovative Blogger) and Brent Williams (Drug Advice Support [DAS] Ambassador). Special thanks to all the sponsors Media 24, Springleap, CPUT, Impact Direct and everyone who contributed to this extraordinary year. May GOD bless you as we look forward to the Reconstructed Intake of 2009.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

MXit Angel Project

After weeks of working on the Angel Project today we finally started with the testing of this service. This service will be launched soon and will offer people the opportunity to have access to help 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. Will keep you updated as we will be launching this soon.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Fair Lady January 09 Issue: Counselling a button away

Drug Advice Support is on Page 24 of the January 2009 Issue of Fair Lady Magazine. This was part of the launch of the afro optimist: Why South Africa is the best country for you to be in right NOW. The extract of the article is below but be sure to grab your copy of Fair Lady January 2009 Issue.

Counselling, a button away

Help for teen drug addicts, is now (literally) at their fingertips, thanks to the Drug Advice and Support at MXit (DAS@MXit) project, which uses the instant messaging service MXit for counselling. The motivation to start DAS came from seeing young people die and families broken because of the scourge of drugs,” says DAS founder Marlon Parker, an IT lecturer at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. Nearly 4000 people have already joined. DAS volunteers refer recovering addicts to counseling or rehabilitation centres in their area. Despite endorsements from national government and MXit, DAS@MXit lacks adequate resources and needs funding. More info: mail , call (021) 637 4037 or see

Thank you Fair Lady for the sharing the story of DAS in your publication and we trust that many more lives will be touched because of your contribution. You can download the article here

We are in the Media

Below find a list of links to online news, portals and blogs about the reconstruction project. We need to spread the word that technology can be used to make a difference in the lives of people.

The Herald (30 May 2009)

The Weekend Post (30 May 2009)

Athlone News (8 April 2009)

Daily News (6 Feb 2009)

The Vessel Newspaper 11 January 2009

The Weekend Post (20 December 2008)

Weekend Post (29 Nov 2008)

Die Burger

People's Post

Witness (4 November 2008)


Biz Community

NGO Pulse news

Business Daily


Die Burger

Athlone NewsPg3_20Aug2008

CPUT Website

Storypot: A writer's online journal

Pambazuka News

News from Africa

IPP Media

Friday, December 5, 2008

Pam Sykes with Mom2.0

Pam Sykes with the Mom 2.0 and Reconstructed Group. Taking them through the writing skills of blogging. The importance of the Story is what should be shared. Telling your stories from the heart will have a big impact.

Posted by ShoZu

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Drug Advice Support

Some of the Reconstructed Team offering Drug Advice and Support to people in need using Mxit. Today we had a good day with more than 2000 messages. The system is also more stable and we are testing our remote logins that seems to be working well. Thank you to all the guys for their dedication to DAS

Posted by ShoZu