/ 22 January 2009

Helping people to help themselves

First National Bank’s IT division, Hogan Technology, was inspired to support the Mme Dimpho Hani Childcare Centre as a long-term project after its management team spent two nights at the centre, which is in an informal settlement, so that it could get a better idea of the needs of underprivileged people are.

“If one looks at what the centre looked like in 2005 [when the project began] in comparison to the facilities it has now, one realises what relevance it has to the community,” says Juanette van Schalkwyk, FirstRand volunteers coordinator at Hogan Technology.

“The school provides education to more than 160 children [in 2005 about 60 children] and feeds them with not only vegetables, but with bread as well, which they bake themselves.”

She says that over the three-year project staff and FirstRand contributed R150 000 to the centre.

“The money came from Hogan Technology staff and every rand we collected was matched by the FirstRand Volunteers Programme.

“Instead of raising the required funds in two years as planned we managed to raise more than double the amount budgeted in less than six months … It was the best feeling when we realised that although we budgeted for R65 000, we had managed to raise this in six months from staff only.

The funding was raised through initiatives that give back to the staff: raffles, a scrapbook competition with donated prizes, photo competitions with donated prizes, pledges and a ­market day during which R10 000 was collected.

The staff’s generosity was evident in the personal time donated by individuals — one Saturday a month staff went on a team-building exercise to the centre and fixed or painted the premises.

Employees who participated gave positive feedback on the experience.

Says Andrea Matthewson, head of programme for eService channels at FNB Hogan Technology: “It is such a privilege to be part of Hogan Technology’s volunteer group that is making a positive difference in the lives of these children and the community as a whole. I urge the rest of Hogan Technology to become involved in the FirstRand Volunteer initiatives. It can only enrich your life.”

Farieda Mayet, project manager for Investment Product House at FNB Hogan Technology, says: “What I learned is that things add up when working as a team. The team made a difference to these people. It enriched their lives with colour, laughter and love. Seeing those kids with their smiley faces gave me indescribable satisfaction. No reward can equal what we got when we went there. Our presence was appreciated and received with open arms.”

Says Van Schalkwyk: “It made us forget about our skin colour, but made us aware of the colours of paint we needed to buy for the playground, classroom walls and kitchen.

“It made us wonder how much we must buy to fill 160 stomachs. It made us get excited about a three-year-old who is disabled in the right side of her body, but is the most beautiful girl we have ever seen.

“It made us believe in ourselves.”

In May last year Hogan Technology partnered Siyabonga Africa, an NGO, in the installation of a bread oven, which was donated by Hogan Technology staff.

When the centre received the oven two staff members attended training provided by Siyabonga Africa. They were taught how to bake bread, manage the centre’s finances and other management skills. Since then two extra staff members have been employed to help with the baking. They also received training.

As a result of the centre’s bread oven, the community members no longer have to walk kilometres to buy bread and the bread is cheaper and healthier than that sold in shops.

“With the bread oven we donated, Hogan Technology has empowered the centre to become self-sufficient and sustainable,” says Van Schalkwyk. “The centre is able to pay bakers salaries now and improve on the bread and delicacies it is baking.

“Not only are the children fed, but the bread, with biscuits, bread rolls, cakes and other delicacies, is sold to the community from a tuck shop on the premises.

“Staff at the centre are excited and motivated because they generate their own finances.”

She says the lesson for future projects is to begin with an income-generating tool to stimulate and support self-sustainability.