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Lavender Hill community transforms former ‘Battlefield’ into recreational hub

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By Ragheema Mclean

A large open field situated in the heart of Lavender Hill, once notorious for gang violence and bloodshed, has been triumphantly reclaimed by the community.

This area, once dubbed a “battlefield,” now serves as a space for recreation and community engagement. Every week, community activists and residents gather seniors from within the neighbourhood for outdoor activities and programs.

Speaking on VOC’s Sunday Live, Mark Nicolson (54), the founder of the Lavender Hill Community Action Network and a resident himself, shared the inspiring story behind their recent initiative: The Seniors Club.

“We started the senior citizens’ initiative about six months ago. One of the elderly members in the community approached me to ask if there wasn’t anything we could do for seniors, and that’s when we decided to start the seniors club,” Nicolson explained.

Currently, the club has about 33 elderly members who gather every Tuesday and sometimes twice a week for a special program.

“We do a fitness training session with them, and afterwards we provide a meal, which is made possible through donations, and then engage in some board games, we also do informative sessions with them,” he added.

“We collaborate with others, for example, we have a nursing sister from the local clinic who comes out to check their blood pressure, etc. It’s always a good time, we really enjoy ourselves in their company; they are the stalwarts of the community, and they have the best stories to tell.”

Beyond the Seniors Club, the group runs several other programs.

“We run a feeding kitchen, as well as sport and recreational programs. We have youth activities too. We started football clubs with boys’ and girls’ teams, and we have over 100 kids that participate.”

Nicolson highlighted that these efforts have brought a sense of calmness to the community, mentioning their mediation efforts with gang leaders and their regular meetings aimed at clamping down on gang violence.

“I always say, we need to make our community look good again, on social media and in the world as well,” Nicolson emphasized.

Addressing the stigma associated with Lavender Hill, he challenged perceptions.

“When people speak about Lavender Hill, people get scared, and they always say they’ll never enter here. I always challenge people to come and take a walk with me and then they witness how different it is from what they hear.”

“We need to stand together and speak up for our community and its residents. There are so many success stories and untold stories that come out of our community.”

For more information on how to donate or volunteer, the public can contact Mark Nicolson on 063 567 3739 or 067 037 9518.

VOC News

Photo: Supplied

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