We like getting to know the people behind the non-profit organisations that we partner with. Today, Stu Walker, Director of iThemba Projects, tells us more about running a non-profit organisation.
In 10 words or fewer, what is the idea behind iThemba Projects?
Enabling this generation to be the future hope and solution.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received (in the context of a Non-Profit Organisation)?
A wise development specialist suggested we always ask ourselves the following two questions: (1) If you were to close down tomorrow, would the impact continue for years to come? (2) Therefore are you empowering people to be the solution, rather than you or your organisation being the saviour?
What advice would you give those wanting to work for, or start, a Non-Profit Organisation?
I quickly realised that good intentions and a big heart were not enough to solve the problems. Determination, hard work, focus, an incessant desire to get better at serving and enabling others are all vital. And most importantly, the non-profit sector needs long-term focused excellence more than any other sector.
What, in your mind, has been iThemba Projects’ biggest success?
There have been three main things: (1) seeing a number of underprivileged preschool teachers become better at providing excellent education, even better than some of their wealthy peers, impacting hundreds of children in their care; (2) seeing a group of unemployed and unskilled people becoming a skilled construction team that has built a quality preschool for their community; and (3) seeing the number of weekly community teenage and young adult volunteers swell from 3 to almost 50 in the last 4 years (community volunteerism) – to serve their own community.
What have you/your organisation learnt from mistakes that may have been made?
By helping/serving in certain ways, we can so easily create dependency, which means the problems are never solved.
In what way would you like iThemba Projects to impact South Africa?
To see the highest HIV/AIDS infected community in the world restore themselves to a healthy and functional community, and therefore for the people of this community to be the heroes and an example to the rest of South Africa.
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.
I’m inspired daily by the people I work with, and the community we work in. I’m inspired mostly by the change I’ve seen in these people, and therefore challenged to be a better person myself.
Mama Gretta, one of the crèche teachers we have been mentoring and upskilling through the Asidlale programme, told her mentor that to her, “Asidlale means we are not alone anymore.” This was a powerful picture to me of what South Africa needs – standing with those that are the most vulnerable and enabling them to be less and less vulnerable.
Why did you decide to do the work that you do?
I believe that this is the kind of work Jesus would be doing if he was walking this earth today. I know that injustice and inequality are things He detests.