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Steve Ablondi and Cindy BurnsSteven Ablondi and his wife, Cindy Burns, spent their professional lives working for the UN in damaged societies – war zones, post-conflict areas, refugee camps. When they retired, they looked for a place to call home.

They found themselves spending time in South Africa. Post-apartheid, it is now a wonderful travel destination and inviting place to live or visit.

But South Africa remains a partially damaged society. Yes, apartheid has officially ended. But while laws have changed, most black South Africans still survive in marginalized townships, living in substandard houses or shacks. Townships are where, during colonial or apartheid times, people were herded onto marginal land. Spaces are squeezed. There is little room for gardens, none for animals. Water must be hauled. This happened on purpose and officially – so blacks would work for white people and for companies. Self-sufficiency was intentionally stamped out.

Soon after Steven and Cindy made the first investments by outsiders in Memel, they began to think about how their personal values and their professional expertise could be put to use for the betterment of Memel and the neighboring black township of Zamani. They began to observe the needs of the people and to listen to their voices.

What was possible?

Permaculture design — growing and eating organic fruit and vegetables and creating human-centered community.

Construction methods focusing on natural building, using reclaimed materials and sweat equity.

Cohousing communities expanding into pocket neighborhood after pocket neighborhood.

These ideas became the heart of the dream.

As Steven and Cindy shared their vision for transforming Memel and Zamani, more than a dozen other international investors came on board and purchased land in Memel. Still others joined as advisors to the Memel.Global project.

Since Steven and Cindy first purchased property in Memel in 2003, many people from all walks of life have come to visit, volunteer, offer advice, and show their support. Steven and Cindy have welcomed Americans, Europeans, Asians, other Africans, as well as white and black South Africans from Pretoria, Johannesburg, and Cape Town.

The legacy of apartheid is still alive in South Africa – but in Memel and Zamani, a new dream is being realized.

Learn More by Watching Three Interconnected Videos about Memel.Global