Very few would have thought that a bushy and overgrown hotspot for criminals would one day be turned into an oasis of peace, where young and old could congregate to work out and enjoy themselves. But that is exactly what happened to Beacon Park, located between Hillside Road and Sarnia Road in Sea View, about 10km south of the Durban city centre. It is now a beacon of hope and a gathering place for community members. This was made possible by a generous investment by leading construction materials company, AfriSam.

The revamp and upgrade of Durbanʼs Beacon Park included the installation of swings and see-saws, an outdoor gym facility, tables and benches, and fencing around the entire perimeter of the park. It is a top-notch facility with gym and recreational equipment, along with five braai stands with picnic tables, where parents can sit while watching their kids play and train. The area is also big enough to hold aerobic and yoga classes.

The eThekwini Municipality manages and maintains the park on behalf of the community. They provide a caretaker and a team that trims the lawn, cleans the gym facility and generally ensures that the facility remains in a spick and span condition.

A revitalised space

The communities of Sea View and surrounding areas have welcomed the introduction of the park. It caters for both young kids and adults and has engendered healthy habits. Martina Kokwana, 52, of Yellowwood Park, drives for seven minutes to Beacon Park with her son Andile (16) for workouts in the park.

“Before I used to run on the road and work out at home. Now I come here. On Saturday morning, I also come for aerobic classes,” she said.

Her son Andile is a striker for Yellowwood Park Super Stars, and dreams of playing soccer in one of the top leagues in Europe. “The gym helps me to gain strength and stamina. I train every day so that I can realise my goal. This gym is extremely helpful, and it has all the equipment I need to get in shape,” he said.

His sentiments were echoed by many others who were at the gym. Okuhle Jumba is a 14-year-old Grade 9 pupil and an avid athlete who participates in 80m, 100m, 1 200m, and cross-country athletic competitions. Her home is about five minutes’ walk from the Beacon Park gym.

“I used to train in South Beach (about 10 km away), which was costly and time-consuming. Now I come here without paying a cent. In the past, we feared passing here because the paras (thugs) were mugging people. Now, I not only feel safe here in the park, but I also use it to enhance my fitness levels, which is good,” she said.

A tangible difference

Senzi Mabaso, AfriSamʼs community development specialist, said the company is pleased with the success of this and other community development projects that the company has been involved in the past few years.

She said that before embarking on the Beacon Park revamping programme, AfriSam went to the community to do research on how to alleviate crime while also bringing people together, promoting healthy living and keeping young minds busy.

“The success of Beacon Park makes us proud as AfriSam because it shows that we are making a tangible difference in the community. We are also proud of the community for taking care of our project and making sure that it is used properly to fight drug use and crime, bring families together and, most importantly, to enhance healthy living,” she said.