We like getting to know the people behind the non-profit organisations that we partner with. Today, Leona Pienaar, Executive PR and Resource Development Manager for Mould Empower Serve (a community upliftment programme), tells us more about working for a non-profit organisation.
In 10 words or fewer, what is the idea behind MES?
MES facilitates developmental change through a holistic range of programmes.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received (in the context of a Non-Profit Organisation)?
A street child once told me – “our God might be mighty slow, but He is never late”. We often stress because of budget and lack of resources, but I have learned that we get what we need when we need it most. We must just have faith! And you need to do what you can, where you are, with what you have.
What advice would you give those wanting to work for, or start, a Non-Profit Organisation?
This is not a job, it becomes a lifestyle – it takes far more commitment than an 08h00 to 16h00 job. BUT the reward is also way better in terms of making a difference in the lives of others. When you see change – real change in someone’s eyes – it touches you forever and leaves a legacy for life.
What, in your mind, has been MES’s biggest success?
In my opinion, it is to create a platform through which others can make a difference in our community – MES did not isolate itself, but opened its doors to all who needed a vehicle to add to positive change. Through this, MES has grown valuable partnerships and has been able to replicate its model in South Africa.
What have you/your organisation learnt from mistakes that may have been made?
Mistakes are often made and we learn all the time. We must never underestimate the strong negative influence of the community we work in. We need to create more time for our staff to recharge and guard against burn-out. We all think we can change the world, but in order to do that, we need to take care of ourselves in the process. The second lesson is to realise that we offer an investment opportunity to others – we should not be begging, but offer opportunities to invest!
In what way would you like MES to impact South Africa?
My dream is that MES will forever break the culture of handouts and restore dignity amongst the most vulnerable in our country so that each person will realise their own worth and reach their full potential.
Have you met any people or heard any stories that have inspired you to do the work that you do? If so, please tell us a little more.
My biggest role model has been my parents. My dad was headmaster of a small primary school linked to a hostel. My mom was a teacher at the same school. They were also the housefather and –mother. Seventy-five percent of the scholars came from broken homes and were transported by bus once a term from Cape Town – 4 hours away. They only went home during school holidays despite the fact that they were in primary school. My parents became their parents and reached out unselfishly to these children in an attempt to restore self-worth, to offer them love and care, but also discipline. Through the unselfish giving of themselves they touched many, many lives. Since I was in primary school I wanted to be in a profession where I too could mobilise change!
Why did you decide to do the work that you do?
As mentioned above – I wanted to make a difference, but I knew I did not want to be a teacher, so studying social work was the next logical step. But then I got involved with mission outreaches during my student years in Stellenbosch. We did trips to Mozambique during school holidays and then I knew my calling is to combine my social work skills with my mission heart. And well, it’s 21 years later, and no regrets!