CFOs giving back to and uplifting the youth of South Africa

Find out how Senele Mbatha, Lucas Ndala, Brett Tromp and André du Plessis are helping the country’s youth.

When life hands you lemons, you make lemonade and give it to the youth of the country. That’s exactly what these four CFOs have done with their time and hard-earned money.

Senele Mbatha, Discovery Vitality CFO
In 2013 Senele’s mother, Thobina Mbatha, still a ‘young’ and active 65-year-old, had the idea of opening a care centre for young children ranging from six months old to six years old. These are vital years for children’s development and form the basis of intelligence, personality, social behaviour and capacity to learn and nurture oneself as an adult. By the age of five, almost 90 percent of a child’s brain will be developed. Despite the importance of early learning, in South Africa 80 percent of children from the ages of three to six are not in accredited early childhood development schools.

The centre, to be named Thembalethu, which means ‘our hope’ in Zulu would provide a safe, warm and stimulating environment for children. They would learn the foundations of reading and writing taught by qualified teachers. They would also benefit from two decent meals served during the day.

To get the centre up and going, Senele’s mother called on him and his siblings to assist with raising the sponsorship to build the centre and kit it out. As the funding materialised, the Thembalethu vision came to life. After first operating from a church, the centre opened its doors in 2013 and in 2016 it was registered as a non-profit.

Today the centre employs three teachers, kitchen staff and a gardener. Thobina is also active in the day-to-day operations of the centre. Parents contribute R60 per child each month, which pays for the teachers, although the government has promised to pay for the teachers in 2021. About 70 children are enrolled at the centre. The NPO is embedded in the community with most of the trustees being parents.

While the centre has not been fully open during the Covid-19 pandemic, the kitchen was still operational during the hard lockdown to ensure that the children had access to daily meals. “Food inflation in recent months has been a real concern. Thembalethu was an important lifeline for these children – for many this was the only food that they would eat in a day,” says Senele.

His regular involvement with the centre includes doing the monthly management accounts, providing advice on how to spend the centre’s money and providing ongoing financial sponsorship from his salary. Whenever he can get away, he spends a weekend with his mother to check in on how she is doing. “Going home is always emotional for me. Lots of students come back to visit the centre and express gratitude for the positive contribution it has made in their lives,” says Senele.

Read more: CFO Cares: Senele Mbatha giving hope to his community

Lucas Ndala, BCX CFO
Lucas is actively working on his personal legacy, which focuses on helping kids from poor backgrounds to reach their full potential.

“I give career guidance talks at high schools, especially for rural kids. I can relate to their situation as I grew up in the same surroundings. They don’t have anyone they can talk to and I am someone they can identify with. After the talk, I challenge the kids to write to me and motivate why I should be their mentor. Then we set up time together and we set the rules on what they expect of me and what I expect of them. I mentor them until after their board exams and often we continue to stay in touch,” he says.

Read more: BCX CFO Lucas Ndala, leaving a legacy

Brett Tromp, Discovery Health CFO
The Orient Hills Day Care is a Play-with-a-Purpose school, and its presence in the village is made possible because of fundraising done by Brett Tromp and Candice together with the Project Orient team.

“We've been visiting the school for ten years, and about six years ago, they were getting to the stage where they had lost a lot of sponsorship. The person running the school approached us to help them to find more sponsors, ”says Candice. "A friend of mine, Lauren suggested we do a high tea to try and raise funds for the school, so I joined to help."

That first fundraiser brought in R113,000 for the school. “It really helped us to keep the school running. We decided that we couldn't just do it as a once off, so it became an annual fundraiser for us. ”

They have continued to run the project in their personal capacities and they actively and continuously fundraise among their friends and associates, to keep the school running from year to year.

Read more: CFO Cares: Brett and Candice Tromp support orient hills day care

André du Plessis, Capitec CFO
Community Keepers is André’s personal project. He and his family supported an orphaned child in the Eastern Cape, and through this were made aware of the emotional challenges facing children living in poor communities where there simply isn’t support for these kinds of problems.

“We saw a lot of issues in her life when we went to visit her in the Eastern Cape. We wanted to find a way to be more involved with other children, so we partnered with Philip Geldenhuys, a social worker, to look at what the issues were and how we could help out. We came to the conclusion that these kids needed professional psychological and social support, so we started raising funds to provide that,” André explained to CFO South Africa on a visit to Ysterplaat.

This planted the seed that today has grown into an intervention serving 27 Cape schools.

The approach is straightforward. Schools can apply or are identified in low-income areas, and a permanent Community Keepers office is established on site. The school must provide the space, but Community Keepers funds the renovation. The space is made up of a reception area leading into two therapy rooms. At Ysterplaat, the rooms are furnished with comfortable items and brightly coloured. In the therapy room, there is a punching bag for working out anger or aggression. In the other is a swing and play therapy station used by the on-site social worker or rotating therapist.

Read more: How Capitec’s Andre du Plessis helps safeguard the future of Children in Cape Town