Presented by Fedgroup

30 years 30 stories: Giving back to those who need it most

Celebrating its 30th birthday this year, financial services company, Fedgroup took some time to reflect on stories and events that helped shape them into who they are today.

Being driven by family values and putting people before profit has always been key to the group, and the company has collected some incredible stories along the way.

Supporting and partnering with charities and giving back is just one of the ways that Fedgroup has tried to make a difference in people’s lives, beyond those directly involved in the business. “It is always so inspiring to see the results of empowering people and communities by giving them the right tools to shape their future.

Whether it is through a book drive, solar panels or simply by caring,” says Fedgroup CEO Grant Field. “Importantly, it allows our business to expand our view beyond our day-to-day work and consider the broader society out there.”

The company’s work for and with the Botshabelo community is probably one of the best examples of how a partnership between an NGO and financial services provider can help hundreds of children and adults reach their full potential, ultimately changing the course of their lives.

Here are six things Fedgroup has learned during its partnership with Botshabelo, which it will take forward in its endeavours to continue impacting communities.

1. Give hope – but ask first what’s needed

When Fedgroup reached out to Botshabelo in 2018, the company did not have a specific idea of what it would do or how it would help. Instead, they began the partnership by asking what Botshabelo needs, feeling that it was most important to understand this first.

Botshabelo runs three programmes:

  • A home for orphaned and abandoned babies.
  • Urban Kids Preschool, which offers quality education at a fraction of the cost to children from underprivileged and emerging families.
  • UpliftED Teacher Training Programme, which is designed to empower women working in backyard preschools in impoverished communities, through appropriate training, mentorship and equipment.

As you can probably guess, the need for support is vast.

2. Changing one life is as important as changing one thousand

11,000 babies are abandoned every year, and of these, only 3,500 children survive. Botshabelo is an important place of refuge for orphaned or abandoned babies who have faced trauma in their earliest days. The organisation has cared for more than 250 babies spanning 20 years, doing their level best to make sure they have as bright and beautiful a future as is possible.

“At Botshabelo, we realise the importance of making a deep impact in the lives of our babies as it is up to us to change their stories,” says Michelle Hinrichsen from The Botshabelo Babies Home.

Botshabelo goes through an astounding 26,000 nappies and 190 tins of baby formula a year – which need to be sourced and paid for somehow. Every single bit they receive goes some way to save a little ‘survivor’, as Fedgroup staff have come to think of the children at Botshabelo.

Like many other charities, times were particularly difficult during the Covid-19 pandemic. Partnering with a few other supporters/sponsors, Fedgroup spear-headed the 2020 Mandela Drive, collecting enough nappies and formula to sustain Botshabelo Babies Home for more than six months! As the economic consequences of Covid-19 continue to bite, this guarantee of supplies for a longer period was welcomed at the home.

3. Be a source of light – sometimes literally

Financial resources are the biggest constraint on most non-profits’ work, and it is a sad reality that most non-profits/non-governmental organisations close as a result of financial constraints. This is a particular area that Fedgroup felt it could make a difference – being one of South Africa’s financial service companies, this is very much ‘their thing’. So too is thinking out of the box – a trait actively cultivated at Fedgroup.

4. Invest in our future leaders

Studies have shown that 60% of first graders never make it to grade 12. According to the founder of Botshabelo, Andy Clark, “Poverty can begin in your formative years when your love for learning dies.”

Once Botshabelo’s first generation of babies began to grow up, the community started looking at schooling for them. At this stage, Andy realised there were very few Early Education Centre (ECD) facilities available to the community’s children – and so the Botshabelo Urban Kids Preschool was born.

What started as a small school with just a few children from the community eight years ago, now has 120 learners: “By fostering a love for learning, these early education centres impact families as well as the futures of the children,” says Clark.

The partnership with Fedgroup saw Botshabelo receive books, stationery and equipment for the school, and a facilities upgrade for two pre-schools, as well as an empowerment programme for seven teachers to change more lives. The Urban Kids Pre-school has been able to expand and offer one hundred new students a place to grow, and 40 grade R students a place to learn.

5. When you partner with experts, you can genuinely grow potential at a young age

“Reading gives us some place to go when we have to stay where we are. Thousands of township children have no access to books,” says Clark. “Our new and gently-used storybooks open a new world for children stuck in crumbling classrooms.”

Seeing the value in unlocking learning through reading, and in encouraging imagination and escapism to give hope, Fedgroup teamed up with Sarah Allan, an occupational therapist. She wrote a children’s book designed to help youngsters identify their feelings, to gather and print books to encourage reading and learning at Botshabelo.

“Giving back to a community can take many forms and when you open your heart to partner with experts in their field, magic happens!” says Field, of the partnership with Allan.

6. Uplift and empower teachers to do the most important job in the world

Shockingly, South African schools have more than 5 000 teachers who are either unqualified or underqualified – and sometimes its adults’ potential that needs to be unlocked. Seeking to address low skill levels among teachers, UpliftED trains more than 4 000 preschool teachers a year, focusing on ‘turning on’ their love of learning, in the hopes this will be passed on to the children they teach.

According to Andy: “Our [UpliftED] team gives teachers the necessary practical and theoretical training to develop their skills and enable them to offer a solid educational foundation to their learners.”

Naledi Seshwene is one such teacher whose career and passion for teaching has been changed by the programme. As a community pre-school teacher, Naledi says she felt completely overwhelmed at her school, and she did not know what to do or say to the children who were “all staring at her with expecting eyes”.

There were no toys or books for the children to use, which proved another challenge. Naledi knew very little about teaching at that point – but knew that she was needed.

Backed by Fedgroup funding, Naledi and other teachers from her school received training from the UpliftED programme, changing the course of their teaching careers. To her, the biggest gift she received from this was the ability to walk back into her classroom and know exactly what she needed to do to positively impact the young lives who will shape our future.

Visit https://botshabelo.co.za/ to see how you can get involved and make a difference too!

This article was published in partnership with Fedgroup.

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30 years 30 stories: Giving back to those who need it most