Scat - a Love Story

Barry Streek came to my office in Oslo towards the end of 1984 to present the Social change Assistance Trust (SCAT) and the idea behind it.  We were asked to sign an agreement in order for SCAT and the Church of Norway to be partners.  I understood most of what he said, liked the idea and signed up.  When Barry left the office, I said to myself “a very good idea”.  SCAT never was about words.  It never was about talking or discussing.  SCAT was about action.  A lot of action.  The first time I visited a SCAT office was when I woke up one morning in February 1985 in Barry’s house.  The house was already full of people.  In nothing near normal office attire, Barry was dealing with them.  They came with project applications, project problems, all of them full of enthusiasm about their own project.

SCAT responded to a definite need.  So much of the support for work and projects in South Africa happened through churches, trade unions and other umbrella organizations, which were linked to one or other ideologically biased party.  Here was an organization that did not ask about ideological or religious orientation.  It was only interested in the project as such.  Criteria for receiving funds were simple, but strict – especially if there was to be a continuation.  And it grew.  More was needed, and more funds came because people in Norway saw that this was solid work.  I was especially happy to see the variety:  advice offices, meeting halls, craft workshops, work in rural areas, projects in which nobody else was involved.  I visited many of them.  I was always overwhelmed by the variety of projects.  But they all had this in common:  They were rooted in the local community.

More than I remember projects, I remember people:  those sneaking into a hotel meeting room in the middle of the State of Emergency, others in hiding from police.  Teresa Solomons was one of those people.  She was in charge of a place in Woodlands, Mitchells Plain and became the mayor of Cape Town, then South Africa’s high commissioner in Tanzania and Canada.  In spite of everything, with regard to the projects, we met people of integrity and concern.  It has always been a great joy to relate to the leadership of SCAT:  in discussing issues, in disagreeing, in laughter, in concern.  SCAT has been a collection of competent and highly dedicated people.  It grew as an organization that did more than channel funds.  There were few staff member at the beginning.  We were very clear that we did not want an organization with staff running projects.  The staff had to support those who ran the projects.  That required more and more competence on the side of staff.  They got it.

Most importantly, however, is that the work of SCAT has been carried by the fundamental conviction that every person has inherent dignity.  That is a conviction that can take us through all kinds of political, philosophical and religious disagreements.  SCAT’s work is about enhancing that dignity in every person.

Reverend Canon Dr Trond Bakkevig, Church of Norway