The community work that Russell and Son funeral director Sean Russell does is more than just a cleaning campaign but creates a ripple effect that has awakened the spirit of a community pulling together to build up Komani.
Along with that, small job opportunities for unemployed youth have been created.
It all began in the Queenstown cemetery where Russell often cut the grass and removed piles of litter with his TLB from the illegal dumping sites nearby, and spread to other areas in Komani.
Russell said his first big project was in Zone1 in Ezibeleni where he cleaned a park.
”The lovely thing is that the park is still clean. It was adopted by community members, who look after it,” he said.
”Growing up here and having the privilege of owning a business has always exposed me to meeting the amazing people of Komani. When there is strife, difficulties or a sad funeral the community rallies around to support one another,” he said.
Russell said his biggest joy was to be blessed enough to employ people and youths in their 20s so that they could look after their families. ”We should try and create jobs, especially in the private sector.
We cannot just sit back and collect money. We are communities who can only survive by helping each other.”
He admires the way community members have offered to pay for casual workers for the project to continue, without drawing attention to themselves. These were people who still continued to pay municipal rates and taxes.
”I will strive to create job opportunities in our town. The more we can do, the more disposable income there will be and the less crime. People’s dignity will be restored.
”Through God’s hand we can build this town and community and try to reduce poverty. That, to me, is the single most important thing.”
Russell said local residents often called to thank him for the work he was doing and that it was common for people to hoot or stop and wave, with some bringing food and cool drinks while they were on site. It was heartening to see the community offer support.
”Yes, we are upset about what is happening in the municipality but we live in a community that wants to be groomed, cleaned and structured. People have been keeping their yards and pavements clean. The dumping is a lack of planning and structure for refuse removal.”
His most recent project was the bridge near the Frontier Hospital and before that a number of parks were trimmed in Top Town and sections of Westbourne. The next place will be at the factory areas in Zone1 in Ezibeleni.
Other completed areas since the start of this year include the Gardens Clinic, Komani Park,Vrag Foch Avenue, Longview Crescent, Amatola Road and substation, ward 10 offices, the N6 opposite The Mall, Queenstown cemetery, Bridge Street in Westbourne, Philani Clinic area, inter-modal taxi rank area, near the indoor sports centre and the Church of God and Saints of Christ area.
New Rest and Mlungisi library and cemetery, Ezibeleni police station and the municipal and state departments, Top Town, Aloevale, Livingstone Road, Grey Street, the KSM area and St Theresa’s Primary School.
”We have removed piles of rubbish from the Nonzwakazi Methodist Church, which is a national monument. Comrades were murdered there during the apartheid era, yet people are dumping next to the church.
”We painted the KSM bridge walls. We have also fixed a road in Victoria Park before the community tarred it.”
The street light poles which were knocked down over the years were removed and delivered to the technical services department.
Russell said on numerous occasions he had assisted Enoch Mgijima Municipality with his TLB to open trenches for electrical connections. ”It is a pleasure to assist the technical employees who have been working very hard under extremely difficult circumstances.”
Some of the people he has been working closely with include Thompson’s Transport owner, the late Julian Thompson. ”Thompson was incredible to us. We worked very closely in our clean-up projects and we honour him in our memory for everything he did. Men like him and Mark Wilson stepped up to the plate.”
Russell said he was also working closely with the Komani community at large. ”People in Top Town, Ezibeleni and Mlungisi have stepped up which is a big positive pushing me through Komani.”
He said he also worked closely with Lihai Bercovick and Jacqueline Wijtenburg of Komani4Me, along with others who provided different types of machinery.
”These are people who are prepared to employ additional employees for grass cutting. People like Mark Sahd from of Interiors, Gary Stiles from Afrox, Anthony and Sue Marriott of Superclean, Pottie Potgieter of the bowling club and Robin Bowes.
”At some stage when we were collecting garbage, we began a little group called Trucks in Town. Orange Plant Hire,Van Oosten, KDC Trading Home, HiTech Plant Hire, Queen Panelbeaters and JJ Motors all helped. We have always dumped the refuse at the Ezibeleni tip site.”