Holding fast to dreams of change

CARL COLLISON

For Dale Skippers, one of the volunteers for this year’s Vodacom Change the World programme, the decision to join the programme was a relatively simple one.

“It’s a matter of doing what you love and never having to work a day in your life,” she says.

Ms Skippers is one of the four Cape Town volunteers who were introduced to the media at a breakfast at St George’s Mall’s Doppio Zero on Wednesday October 28.

To say Ms Skippers was “introduced” is, however, not wholly accurate as she is participating in the programme for the second year running.

Ms Skippers, a Wynberg resident who holds a Master’s degree in business administration, will continue her work with Life Changers Foundation, the Ottery-based organisation working at freeing people from substance abuse.

As to why she chose to continue her work with the organisation, Ms Skippers says: “While society might look at them and see drug addicts, gangsters and prostitutes, I love being able to see the hearts of these young men and women. It’s so amazing when these individuals realise that they are so much more than just what their past – or society – has labelled them.”

Another volunteer who joins the programme for a second year is Lise van den Dool.

A Kenilworth resident, Ms Van Den Dool, will continue the work she began as part of last year’s programme with U Turn. The organisation, which conducts programmes in Claremont, Kenilworth and the CBD, works at restoring the self worth and self esteem of people living on the street by trying to “address their spiritual, physical and emotional needs”.

Of her first year as a volunteer, Ms Van Den Dool laughs: “It’s been tough. Very tough, but very rewarding.”

As to what she found particularly challenging to deal with, Ms Van Den Dool says: “What is hard is coming to terms with homelessness’s bigger picture and realising all it will take to get people unstuck from it and off the streets.”

The challenge of her chosen volunteer work aside, Ms Van Den Dool adds: “I’d definitely recommend participating in this programme, though, as it is something that allows you to do really effective work.”

A new volunteer to the programme – and someone who is doubtless hoping to do said “effective work” – is Marianne Williams.

Ms Williams, who made her living as a journalist, will be bringing her skills as scribe to her upcoming work with Hope House Counselling Centre.

For the organisation – which offers numerous counselling and support services to those who may need it – the Kuils River resident will work with three schools in the area in setting up school newspapers.

Ms Williams, who will act as editor for the papers, says: “I’ve always wanted to start a school newspaper with counselling incorporated into it. This is why I made the decision to dedicate my career and time at Hope House. There are too many kids suffering in silence, so we encourage them to submit any questions in the submission boxes we provide. These questions are submitted anonymously and professional Hope House counsellors then offer advice in their school newspaper.

“In our first issue, we helped pupils suffering from cutting themselves when depressed, dealing with jealous boyfriends, feeling unloved by parents, having obsessions with being perfect and dealing with cyber bullying.”

The schools she is working with are Sarepta Secondary School (“whose first ever newspaper rolled off the press two weeks ago”), Silversand High School (where, she says, “I started training sessions recently”) and Silversand High School (“where I am hoping to recruit editorial teams soon”).

As to her motivation for choosing this particular cause, Ms Williams says: “The need for providing guidance to – and motivation of – youth in our schools cannot be understated. Pupils are faced with so many challenges and seldom know how to deal with them and are often hesitant to open up as they are sometimes ruled by a fear of being judged. Hope House runs a Better Life Choices programme at these schools.

“I strongly believe in educating our kids and equipping them with tools to make good choices in life. We all go through challenges in life, but it is how we deal and react to them that matters most. These pupils are given tools to help them cope with those challenges.”

Helping people cope with the challenges that come with having cancer is the motivation behind Conn Bertish’s involvement in this year’s programme.

Mr Bertish, who beat brain cancer in 2013 after being diagnosed with the disease in 2005, says: “I was a creative director at various advertising agencies, but this year decided that I needed to give others with cancer some tools to better help them deal with it.”

To this end, Mr Bertish founded Cancer Dojo, a positive ideology and mobile application, which, according to its website, “builds tools to help people facing cancer play a role in their own healing.

“We generate content, information and techniques to shift people from being patients to being thoroughly engaged in their bout with cancer. This dojo thinking approach is a way to augment all traditional and complementary treatments, including surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and so many others.

According to Mr Bertish, the application, which is in the process of being developed, aims to “bring the power of visual thought to life and build a platform where people can grow, learn and share skills and tools as active participants in their bout with cancer”.

Aware of the potentially hard road ahead, Mr Bertish laughs as he says: “It’s going to cost a fair amount of cash, so at the moment we are sourcing funds.”

To this end, he holds talks around South Africa and will soon be heading to Milan – all in the hope of making his potentially far-reaching dream a reality.

“We aim to increase the survival rate – one playful mind at a time,” he says, with a playful smile that belies a dogged determination.

Dogged determination is clearly something these volunteers have more than bucket loads of. What, though, drives them to dedicate so much to their chosen causes?

Says Ms Skippers: “I cannot stress enough how important volunteering your time and skills to a worthy cause is – especially if you cannot support an organisation financially.

“Initiatives such as these are started with heart and passion and they need volunteers to help them succeed in making a difference in this world of brokenness.

“The more volunteers there are, the greater the impact will be on healing our land.”