I had the privilege to take a deeper look behind one of the very “busy” and caring NPO’s in Montagu and chat to Olin Kiewietz of Change Agents South Africa.
Change Agents South Africa is a NPO with a very clear vision of a society where an individual, family, society are able to attain and sustain their own economic, emotional, spiritual and physical well-being
I wanted to know from Olin how the idea of a food voucher fits into this vision and how it came about:
“Change Agents South Africa is all about CHANGE. Change for the better, but we painfully understand that change is not easy and not easily accepted too. We will always have poor people amongst us, but we believe there is an alternative to begging, street dwelling and homelessness. We believe in hand-ups, not hand-outs. Giving a street dweller/beggar money does not solve the problem, because you are enabling them. As much as we love our visitors to Montagu, we want to encourage them not to give money, but give a FoodVoucher. When the beneficiary of the FoodVoucher comes to the FoodHub to redeem the voucher, he/she is profiled and a process of healing starts. Healing could include homelessness, unemployment, application for an identity document, reuniting with their loved ones, inpatient substance abuse rehabilitation, etc. This is a tiring journey and might even take a few months or years, but the person will be healed at the end, because he/she took responsibility of their own journey and it’s not us forcing the journey on them. We come alongside them to attain and sustain their own journey”, explains Olin.
Which areas are included in this project?
“At this moment it is only in Montagu, because it is a pilot programme and also because it’s not just about handing out/providing food, but restoring the dignity and self-worth of the people we serve.”
How can we as the general public or man/woman on the street help? Especially supporting the FoodVoucher project?
There are six ways that the general public could assist:
- Pray for Change Agents South Africa.
- Buy a FoodVoucher from our office (25 Du Toit Street) or from the MATA office, 27 Bath Street at Montagu Country Hotel.
- Donate funds to buy food/toiletries/stationary. R20 is not a lot of money for a plate of food, it is definitely possible if we do get non-perishable food which we could add to the current food items we have.
- We always need (retired) people with specialized skills (doctors, social workers, counsellors, electricians, plumbers, etc.) to assist with facilitation of programmes.
- Donate anything, as in anything, that you are not using and want to pass on. We have self-help programmes where we empower individuals to attain and sustain themselves on all levels of life.
- We always need diesel and maintenance of our personal vehicle which we use 99% for the work of the organization. Our greatest need is a reliable bakkie.
In light of this very special and clever project, I am curious and want Olin to share a bit more detail about other programmes/projects of Change Agents SA:
Olin has more than 20 years’ experience within the community development field and always look for cost effective and people-centred ideas on how to address challenges our town/area are struggling with.
Olin gladly expands on Change Agents South Africa’s work: “All of our programmes’ main focus is to restore dignity by coming alongside the beneficiary and guiding him/her to make better choices.
- Project Winter Hope (1-31 July) – Here we provide food, blankets and warm clothes to anyone in distress. This is an annual project.
- FoodHub – We provide food on a daily basis for anyone in need. From time to time we provide a small hamper depending on the availability of food items.
- Precious Pearls Programme – This programme focuses on young girls, teaching them about the challenges/issues in life and how to make better choices.
- C.A.D.A.L.A.C. – This is a substance programme, where anyone who struggles with a substance abuse related challenge is being supported.
- Leading Ladies – When you “graduate from the Precious Pearls Programme you are enrolled into the Leading Ladies, where you assist/mentor a sister in the Precious Pearl Programme.
- Boys to Men focuses on boy children, teaching them to be and become responsible teens.
- Hearts of Men focuses on men in general; supporting them to work through childhood issues/trauma by creating a safe space.
- Self-Help Food Gardens
- Skills Transfer workshops – Here we focus on equipping the beneficiary with skills to empower him/her to start their own small business or to become employable.
- Database of unemployed people – We keep this list as a reference if there are potential employers who need an employee.
Last, but not least – it is always good to share your hopes and dreams. Olin can sum up his wish and prayer for our amazing towns and community in 4 points.
- Communities/towns where we as non-profit organizations are not needed anymore.
- Communities/towns where individuals took responsibility for their current situation and actively work to better themselves.
- Everybody contribute actively to the economy of our towns.
- The abovementioned might not be possible in our lifetime. My ultimate dream is to have a big space that could be used as a skills training/workshop space where entrepreneurs can ultimately trade and run their own small businesses and become self-sustaining.