RDSP was formed out of concern for rural communities expressed by development practitioners working in Cape Town’s urban townships.
The original concept was to place skilled volunteers from urban centres in rural areas so that their skills could be transferred. After a period of intensive research in 1991 it was decided that a far better approach would be to identify fledgling community development activities already taking place in rural areas and support these via skills training and mentoring, thereby building up local rural capacity on a long term and permanent basis. Our initial funding partner was Misereor, Germany, and they remain our biggest supporter.
In 1992 RDSP as we know it was launched and regular field visits to the Eastern Cape, Northern Cape and Free State provinces began as the model started to take shape. It was as much shaped by the initial participants in our sessions as by the young RDSP staff themselves. There was no budget available for flights, so these trips and many more over the years involved driving thousands of kilometres, really getting to know the context of rural life. This was a time of transition for our country and communities were starting to re-imagine their future, hungry for increased capacity to respond to pressing needs themselves.
In time RDSP grew from two staff members to a dozen, with a national reach, and affiliated to the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference. It also became necessary to grow our programmes beyond organisational capacity building to focus on the scourge of gender-based violence and the specific needs of youth.
The heart of our work still lies in the Western, Eastern & Northern Cape provinces for geographical reasons. Over thirty years, covering hundreds of field trips, working with thousands of rural people and a myriad of different community based organisations and small projects who have asked us to partner with them on their journey, we can honestly say that we are specialists in our field and completely committed to the future of our country, no matter how great the challenges are.