Trust raises over $1-million for African projects

16th April 2010 By: Carla Thomaz

Ground engineering company Golder Associates has raised over $1-million for 11 projects as part of its commitment to sustainability. The projects provide support for families and children who have been orphaned or displaced by the HIV/Aids pandemic.

Shortly after the establishment of Golder Associates Africa, in 2003, the Golder Trust for Orphans was founded in recogni- tion that the HIV/Aids pandemic was wreaking havoc on the development of families and communities all over Southern Africa. The company decided to establish a trust that would support children who had been orphaned by the HIV/Aids pandemic.

“The projects we support care for the day-to-day needs of roughly 1 200 children; this number can increase drastically on a daily basis as more children in the respective communities make use of the facilities and care provided by the local projects,” says Golder Trust for Orphans manager Jon Howcroft.

“Golder Associates is a com-pany guided by our core values, one of these values being sustainability. The Golder Trust for Orphans aims to contribute to the wellbeing of the communities in which we live and work and the Trust is part of the company’s social responsibility initiative, aligned with the core value of sustainability. Within the Trust, this includes corporate philanthropy as well as investment in sustainable community projects,” says Howcroft.

The Trust is currently funded by over 600 Golder Associates employees, who give monthly donations, as well as contributions from Golder Associates operating companies. Rather than providing handouts, the guiding principle of the Trust is to provide funding for sustainable forms of support in communities which have identified long-term development projects that require financial capital and other resources. The funds are currently distributed across 11 projects in six countries.

Howcroft adds that projects earmarked for sustainable development are provided with the seed funding to establish a commercial entity that will ultimately generate enough income to become self-funding and to make a significant contribution to the care of orphans. Where it is not feasible to provide funding to establish an ongoing sustain- able development project, funding will be provided on an ongoing basis on merit.

In a transcontinental volunteer project, staff from Golder Associates’ Canadian, Italian, American, UK and South African offices travelled to Mpumalanga province to assist in the building of the KwaSizabantu Schulzendal orphans’ crèche.

The project was launched in November 2009 and volunteers worked with community members to build a seven-classroom preschool that provides high-quality preschool education to the orphans in the Schulzendal settlement within the Nkomazi municipality. The Trust has found that orphans are often ill prepared to enter the formal schooling system and do not have the necessary foundations in place to begin schoolwork in literacy, numeracy and life skills.

The trust estimates that there are more than 200 orphans between the ages of one and six years in Schulzendal and, as a result, there was a great need for an orphan crèche that seeks to tackle some of the challenges faced.

The crèche, which accommodates 50 children, will be expanded to accommodate more orphans as funds become available. The crèche meets the minimum standards for registration with the provincial Department of Social Development and will be eligible for a subsidy from the Department of Education.

“The operational costs of the preschool is funded by a commercial maize and samp mill that was also funded by the Trust,” notes Howcroft.

The Trust also supports the Thembisa Embo community project, Walk in the Light Minis-tries and the St Joseph’s care centre project, in South Africa. The Thembisa Embo community pro-ject, outside Durban, provides homes for HIV/Aids orphans by ensuring each child has a primary caregiver, a suitable dwelling, nutritious food, education, access to healthcare and counselling.

Hamba Ekukanyeni is part of the Christian mission organisation Walk in the Light Ministries, based on a farm 10 km outside Pietermaritzburg. Its mission is to meet the needs of disadvantaged black children, widows and care-givers in the area of Haniville. As a result of Golder Trust’s support, geraniums have been planted on 10 ha of land near the ministry. These plants are harvested and processed to create essential oils, which are sold locally and the proceeds go to support the local families in Haniville.

The St Joseph’s care centre is a fully fledged care facility, in Bronkhorstspruit, which aims to improve the quality of life of the terminally ill in the end stage of life. The care centre also has an orphan programme designed to support orphans in the community through feeding programmes and educational support.

In Kenya, the Trust supports the Lewa Children’s Home and Baraka Farm, which is a multi- faceted project that consists of a commercial farm and private school providing a secure environment for orphans. In Zimbabwe, it supports the Hands of Mercy, a farm-based feeding and education centre for orphans in the local community and, in Mozambique, the Mission Station of Carlos Vilanculos, which is a mission on a family farm providing food, education and clothing to orphans in the local community.

In Tanzania, the Trust supports the Food Water Shelter, which is an organisation that builds and manages sustainable and eco-friendly children’s villages with education, and social and health facilities for orphans and vulnerable women and their children in the local community, as well as the Rhotia Valley tented lodge and children’s home, which is a tented tourist lodge whose profits are used to fund a nearby children’s home.

Meanwhile, in Swaziland, the Trust supports the Bulembu Ministries, a revitalisation project consisting of several commercial enterprises whose profits are directed towards orphan caring and support, as well as the ABC Ministry, which is a care home that provides food, shelter and love for abandoned babies.

Howcroft adds that one of the Trust’s main projects for this year is the construction of a technical training centre, in Tanzania, that will provide training for vocational employment for orphans that have completed schooling. It is planned that the running costs for this training centre will be catered for by the establishment of a commercial bakery in the area.

As part of Golder Associates’ fiftieth anniversary, Howcroft says that the company has set out a number of goals for the Trust for Orphans. The company, which has raised over $1-million since 2003, is aiming to raise a further $500 000 in 2010 and to increase its monthly payroll donors to over 800 by December 2010.

Howcroft reports that the Trust is also aiming to implement at least two new projects within the organisations that the Trust is supporting and to successfully execute a staff volunteer pro- ject, where staff donate their time and expertise to contribute to one of the projects, as well as to expand the office champions network to have an office champion, who promotes the Trust in each office, in all the company’s 150 offices.