A KINDLY LIGHT – A tribute to Roy Farrant
by Rommel Roberts
Eastern Cape Meeting & founder and former director of the Cape Town Quaker Peace Centre
Roy Farrant, of Godalming Meeting, has died leaving his beloved wife Dorothy with whom he created a legacy of incalculable impact.
I first met Roy and Dorothy Farrant at Woodbrooke in 1985, during the dark years of South Africa’s apartheid and the introduction of the horrific “necklacing” era (a burning tyre placed around a person’s neck). I initially experienced Roy as a real stickler for detail, due Quaker process and procedure. This impression changed, however, when we discovered a shared affinity for playing bridge, with the warm and comfortable tea and cake sessions offered by Dorothy. I soon realized that Roy and Dorothy believed in utter simplicity and service. Indeed it was in 1985 that the concept of network fundraising through a very personalised approach was developed by Dorothy and Roy with remarkable commitment and dedication. Little did I realise then just what was to come. In fact the first signs already appeared at Woodbrooke where the first contributions were made toward peacemaking in South Africa and Roy dreamt of the creation of linkages of a Peace Centre in Africa with similar work in Ramallah, Palestine and in Northern Ireland.
A Team of Light, Love and Care
Roy and Dorothy proved to be a perfect team. Roy provided the administrative structural and red tape stability, including proper communication with Quaker & legal authorities that often required bulldog persistence in negotiating appropriate charitable status. Dorothy provided the vital skill of communicating at a deeply personal level with many meetings throughout Britain and Ireland. The hundreds of very personal letters that she received and responded to in her own handwriting were amazing. Often the letters she responded to had less to do with fundraising and more to do with individual donors who added some personal question requiring a thoughtful and caring response. At times Roy had to use absolute discretion in sharing confidential information because the South African Security police were often working closely with Western security networks in order to target so-called communistic elements. Sometimes the Farrants communicated with people who had suffered incarceration (including myself) and considerable caution was required. Doing a balancing act between providing factual information for meetings who wished to contribute on a regular basis and information that could endanger strategies and peace initiatives required some careful handling.
Roy together with Dorothy watched their own administrative expenditure with hawk eye passion. Their philosophy was that all monies raised had to reach the donors’ ultimate objective and money collected was often the result of personal efforts like cake sales and special teas. The expenditure on overheads was kept to the bare minimum because they wanted to send every last penny to Africa. In fact it was only at my absolute insistence that after some years they finally visited the Peace Centre in Cape Town, the main beneficiary of all their efforts, with a compromise that they be allowed to contribute to the cost of the journey.
The English Mustard Seed
Roy and Dorothy were at pains to play down their efforts. They epitomize the parable of the mustard seed. The results are there for all to see. I have enjoyed this relationship for 20 years and bear witness to the impact of their efforts, so much so that I have coined the term “Farranting” in order best to describe the approach of this very simple yet extremely effective and sustainable method of supporting a cause. Despite the fact that at the time most NGOs were complaining of a drop in income, the Farrants had the completely opposite experience. Clearly they got it right - a lesson indeed to be valued and learnt from. Their philosophy was that of simplicity, accountability, faith, clear purpose, honesty with effective communication.
The mustard seed sown by the Farrants grew during Roy’s lifetime and spread widely amongst scores of meetings and individuals in Britain and Ireland. In South Africa it was evident in the development and flourishing of the Quaker Peace Centre in Cape Town and in the activities, the organisations and the individuals associated with the Centre.
A major project, later taken on by the state and increased to support many poor families, was the development of one thousand food gardens. Work for peaceful change has benefited during the past twenty years from the Farrants’ hard work:
- Work to end the ‘necklacing’ attacks in Cape Town
- Taxi violence intervention
- Support of a campaign to end conscription
- Reconciliation between white and black mothers who lost sons in the conflict
- Successful support & implementation of home based pre-schooling townships and squatter camps – constructed 13 pre-school centres also used as community centres
- Youth support programme – training & education as a constructive intervention
- Promotion of constructive actions by large corporate companies like Warner Lambert, Baltimore Aircoil, Readers Digest etc. This was the outcome of the first protest housing project in Khayelitsha informal settlements – it still stands as a cut above current low cost housing building methods – people collected 50 cent pieces in plastic bags supported by these companies . The houses were built without state permission and in the face of state resistance to proper housing alternatives in informal settlements
- Children’s Peace programme – creative peaceful activities and co-operative games in townships, including the organization of international children’s days involving more than 9000 children of all racial groups
- Launching of Peace Education as a practical process and concept in preparation for life beyond apartheid – in the post apartheid scenario this concept was adopted by the national department of education and is today being used in various forms to overcome the historical effects of racism and consequent tensions – this has attracted national and international interest
- The official launching of the Peace Centre as an organization rather than an activity only - a special bequest in response to the Farrants’ appeal contributed considerably to the purchase and renovation of the buildings today occupied by the Peace Centre
- The launching pad for many actions in the run up to the first elections and implementing a special programme to support returning exiles
- Development of a range of peace-related training and information materials including the very first national handbook on peace education – also many video productions that included Zimbabwe and Mozambique
- Implementation of a special mediation programme for community mediators which also became a special hallmark for many organisations who came to learn, such as the Centre for Conflict Resolution linked to the University of Cape Town
- Peace related actions with Mennonite and other groups in support of peace and reconciliation in countries like Namibia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, East Africa etc
These and many other initiatives built on years of work and commitment dating back well before 1985.
Influence of the Centre
In my own subjective experience, hundreds of organisations and individuals have been influenced by the Peace Centre, of whom the following are a few examples:
Margaret Steinegger who was trained at the Peace Centre is today a key person in an international organization responsible for training of international peacemakers, I was a trainer at one of her international peace conferences in the USA.
Gerhard Beck from Germany linked to the Peace Centre’s international volunteer programme and Dennis Rafaniello from the United States later helped me start the first rural computer training centre which today has 37 centres in rural villages and towns training over 15000 persons in both schools and communities.
Mr. Mpumi Fini trained at the Peace Centre and helped form the very first community peace mediation programme in Mdantsane, Eastern Cape; this has led to the development of community court mediation which avoids lengthy trial processes and brings victim and perpetrator together with the stamp of court approval.
Dear Friends, I have touched briefly on the influences and impacts arising from the development of the Peace Centre in order to show the importance of the support that Roy and his dear wife Dorothy generated. This tribute is not only a recognition of their commitment and actions but a heartfelt gratitude to them and their community of Friends.
May the light of the Lord’s servant Roy continue to shine amid these very dark days of conflict in the world today. God bless and hamba khale - goodbye - to a son of peace.
Anyone wishing to contribute to the current work of the Cape Town Quaker Peace Centre may do so by sending a donation (Payable to the CTQPC Committee) to Jasmine House, 7 West Terrace, Richmond, North Yorks, DL10 4EQ, United Kingdom, tel: 01748-825712, e-mail
Donations through the internet:
Payment can be made through the website www.cafonline.org
Look for the heading 'Find a charity and donate' at the bottom right of the screen. In the box labelled 'Keyword(s) or phrase', type in "Cape Town Quaker" and click on Search. When the next screen appears, click on 'Donate' next to 'Cape Town Quaker Peace Centre Committee'.