ReginaWilliams is on a one-woman quest to teach farmworkers that they don’t have to stay poor and illiterate.
Regina, 47, who herself was born and raised on a farm in the Aan-De-Doorns region in the Boland, recently founded an NGO called Powerful and Proud Future Farmworkers, which aims to uplift plaaswerkers in De Doorns, Rawsonville, Wolseley and Worcester.
“Many of the workers are illiterate, [so] we joined forces with World Broadcasting Media to show them movies making them aware of their rights,” she explains.
She also hosts leadership and sport programmes and takes the youth on outings like the one sponsored by the Department of Social Services to see the Stormers play at Newlands last weekend.
“We also visited Robben Island to create pride in our heritage and show them that just like Madiba was freed from prison, they can also break free from their circumstances.”
Regina says she grew up dirt poor and if it wasn’t for her father, Karel Williams, deciding he was gatvol of raising his eight kids in a two-room huisie, she and her siblings might have ended up as farm workers too.
“Instead my brother became a professor in chemistry and my sister is a physiotherapist,” says the single mom.
Karel found a job as a general worker at Brewelskloof Hospital in Worcester.
“Because he worked for the State, we had the opportunities to get bursaries and that’s what ensured a better future for us,” says Regina.
She adds that her dad raised them by himself and never married after her mother’s death nearly 40 years ago.
Pastor Salmon Syster of Living Hope Ministries and Erieka Youth Centre says Regina “has given farm workers and their children a pen in the form of skills to write their own future instead of giving it to the farmer or drug lords”.
About 85% of the residents in Rawsonville’s informal settlements are farm workers who have been evicted.
John, 60, and Ella Gcanga, 61, who have been living in Geelkampie for nearly 10 years after being evicted when John became blind in his one eye, says Regina has given them hope for the future.
“We just accepted the fact that the farmer never paid out John’s money, but Regina is helping us fight for that money,” says Ella.
John adds: “I want to use that money to buy a bigger house for us.”