07 September 2009
Mxit'ing with addicts (by addicts)!
I first found him on twitter and then tracked him down through his
blog, where I found him online so I chatted using the chat function.
Marlon Parker, lecturer at Cape Peninsula University of Technology
(CPUT) is a social entrepreneur who is using technology to empower
Re-constructed Labs (RLabs) is an initiative that came out of the
impoverished Cape Flats area in Cape Town. With 80% unemployment, the
community suffers from serious drug and gang related issues. “My
brother was involved with drugs and gangs and is currently in prison,”
Parker said, explaining his personal interest in this project.
“We have developed a system that allows us to have conversations on
various mobile chat platforms – Mxit, The Grid and even twitter”, he
explained, “With this we transform, or re-construct, ex-gang members
and drug dealers who use social media to express their stories and
help others.” They started off using blogs to share their experiences
and this has evolved through the use of the other mobile chat
Started early last year, already 10,000 people have used the service
and at least 600 have got help and gone on to the next level of
further offline counselling said Parker. “We have 19 advisors and
offer drug counselling and advice.” He explains that the challenge is
to get the mainstream media to listen to the community. In this short
time, he says they have had at least 50 articles written about this, 3
television appearances and more than 20 radio interviews.
“We now also offer debt counselling, Aids counselling and advice for
women in the community who suffer from abuse,” he said. Together with
the organisation Cell-Life, they offer counselling for those with Aids
through the National Aids Helpline.