"Not only are skills programmes such as computers, art and agriculture, as well as sports including soccer, basketball and netball available to the children, young adults within the community are trained as teachers and mentors and employed to run the programmes, resulting in local job creation."
Are you changing lives?
Nominations are now open for the 2014 Drivers of Change awards. Nominations can be made in the following categories: Individual; Civil Society; Business; and Government. Go to www.southernafricatrust.org/
nominate to make a nomination. Closing date is 31 July 2014.
True to the ethos that a solution is contained within every problem, there are innovative organisations and individuals who are successfully tackling the challenges facing communities in southern Africa and turning them into success stories.
These organisations and individuals in the region who are making a real impact in the fight against poverty, especially in the development of public policies and strategies, are recognised by the Southern Africa Trust (The Trust) in the form of the annual Drivers of Change awards.
The inaugural award was in 2006, having been created to hold up living examples of innovative practices, inclusive attitudes and effective processes that build social trust and create the best conditions to make a real and lasting difference in the lives of people living in poverty.
The Drivers of Change award has four categories, namely: civil society, government, individual and business.
The current award winners as announced on 31 October 2013 are the Siyavuna Development Centre for the Civil Society category, Unjani Clinic in the business category, with Angela Larkin receiving the individual award.
The Drivers of Change Individual Award: Angela Larkan
While studying at the Wesleyan University in the United States, Durban-born Angela Larkan started researching orphans in KwaZulu-Natal for her thesis on HIV and AIDS.
But her research into the devastating effects of HIV/AIDS did not remain an academic exercise. Rather, she chose to return to her home province in 2008 to do what she could to relieve the burden the disease was placing upon rural communities.
"I felt I could play a role here," said Larkan. She certainly has proved to be an agent for positive change.
Her visionary, innovative and pioneering ideas have resulted in tremendous strides to decrease malnutrition and food insecurity amongst youth by initiating a feeding scheme that provides food daily for over 400 children, as well as agricultural programmes that encourage youth to start their own home gardens and community garden initiatives that help unemployed youth, adults and the elderly to earn an income.
Initially, she wished to create a low-resource model she believed could help orphans and vulnerable children affected by the HIV/Aids epidemic. But, when funding proved hard to secure she, together with Tyler Howard, started the Thanda After-School initiative. Six years later Thanda After-School is a successful programme providing daily care and support, knowledge and training to 440 orphans and vulnerable children at six schools in the rural Untwalune community, all of whom are fed as part of the programme five days a week.
Using existing local resources - from classrooms to soccer fields - the initiative works with both primary and secondary school children ranging in ages from 5 to 22, employing young role models from the community as mentors who fill the developmental and emotional gaps left by missing parents and overwhelmed caregivers.
Not only are skills programmes such as computers, art and agriculture, as well as sports including soccer, basketball and netball available to the children, young adults within the community are trained as teachers and mentors and employed to run the programmes, resulting in local job creation.
There are 14 teachers trained by Thanda, at least half of them having participated in Thanda After-School when they were learners.
The programme has made a marked difference to children's lives.
"The Grade R and Grade 1 programme resulted in a 600% increase in the number of children who had foundation literacy skills after participating in the aftercare programme for five months," said Larkan.
Participation also made a "big difference" to children's self-esteem and ability to think creatively.
"Initially they are very withdrawn, have no opinions and cannot tell you what they think about things. But after a while they start thinking about what they're going to do and how they're going to do it, and start seeing opportunities in the community as well."
This bodes well for sustainability, as some of the children elect to remain and contribute creatively to the community rather than seeking employment in the cities.
With sustainability a core component of Thanda's value system, the socially-conscious business Thanda Zulu was founded to support Thanda's non-profit endeavours.
Thanda Zulu imports items from income generating projects throughout southern Africa, providing jobs for over 50 men and women, with all profits going to the Thanda After-School programme.
Award drives Thanda forward
Larkan said receiving the Drivers of Change award has benefited the organisation due to the credibility it carries.
"It is an award from within the sector and carries a lot of weight," she said.
"Just by being at the awards ceremony we were approached by the KFC Add Hope programme who initiated talks about assisting with our feeding scheme."
She said this has led to KFC sponsoring the Thanda feeding scheme.
The award further led to the organisation being featured in the Mail&Guardian which resulted in eTV filming a documentary on Thanda and then secretly getting three staff members to compete on the OMO sponsored game show ‘You Deserve It', from which R61 000 in prize money went to Thanda.
"It was an honour and a surprise. When eTV came in November, they told me they were making a documentary. In January, they secretly flew three of our staff members to Cape Town to participate in the game show and the next day, the guy from the Omo adverts walks into our library and hands me a cheque.
I was totally surprised," said Larkan.
The exposure has made "an incredible difference to us," she said.