Recognising our unsung heroes

2008-11-14 00:00

Are you tired of all the bad news about South Africa and feeling despondent about the country? There is a campaign that could help lift your spirits and let you do something constructive at the same time.

A Johannesburg-based airline advertising company has launched a campaign to recognise South Africa’s unsung heroes and heroines. Called “Pass it On”, the drive is designed to give people an opportunity to identify “ordinary people who do kind deeds to make South Africa a better place, but whose actions are rarely acknowledged,” said Craig Gettliffe, CEO of Six Degrees Media.

“We wanted to acknowledge and give something back to those in our country who go out of their way to help other South Africans. There are many people who give their time and compassion to others, yet who are hardly noticed. Our philosophy is that change starts with each and every one of us. By doing something good for someone else you will encourage him or her to do the same and in doing so continue the movement.

“We believe that helping someone is the essence of life. We are obliged to make a difference and it begins with showing the compassion that we all know we have within us. We have started a social revolution and we invite everyone to join. It’s our small way of trying to promote a positive attitude,” Gettliffe said.

Through a partnership with 1time airline and City Lodge, the campaign distributed nomination postcards to all 1time passengers during September. These cards allowed people to nominate an “angel” who they felt deserved a weekend away at a City Lodge resort. More than 3 500 nominations were received from 1time passengers and through the Pass It On website.

Four people have been rewarded for their kindness with a weekend getaway at a City Lodge hotel. They are Gertrude Levin and Maddy Williamson of Durban, Anna- Marie Smit of Sedgefield and Christian

Mangena of Pretoria. Levin is the family breadwinner “but makes the time to help others”. She has been a social worker in Wentworth, Durban, for more than 20 years. Levin now works at Beth Shalom retirement village in Musgrave.

Williamson is the matron of the frail care unit at the Edenrock retirement home in Durban and was nominated for “looking after the patients in the most caring and considerate manner”.

Smit gives winter warmth to poor and needy people every year. She buys hot- water bottles and knits covers for them, she knits socks and buys blankets to give to the needy. Mangena, who is a forensic analyst with the South African Police Services (SAPS), was nominated for devoting his time to helping the community to get rid of criminals, even when he is off duty. Emmah Makatu who nominated him said that she has never known him to take leave, such is his dedication.

Gettliffe said: “Initially we intended to select one worthy good Samaritan to receive a prize, but the sheer number of nominations and awesome deeds described made us decide to draw four winners from a hat.”

Many nominations were personal, such as people who have cared for disabled or sick partners for many years, offered accommodation to strangers, helped out in a crisis or paid school fees or airline flights.

Durban resident Gavin nominated his business partner who restored his confidence and happiness.

“Miracles do happen and angels are among us all the time,” he said. A dressmaker from Katlehong, Miriam was nominated for giving a portion of her income to Katlehong orphans.

Most nominations were community based, such as Zitusiele Mazibuko who started a soccer academy in Umlazi for boys aged eight to 17 without any sponsorship. The nominator, Siza Mazibuko, said: “The academy helps boys stay committed to something they love and also keeps them off the streets.”

Rasta, a former car guard from Cape Town was also nominated. His concern for surfers’ safety led him to start a shark-spotting programme at Muizenberg beach. Another KwaZulu-Natal nominee was

Jerald Vedan who worked for many years in the Shallcross community in Chatsworth through the Shallcross Civic and the Ratepayer’s Association and Shallcross soup kitchen.

Michelle Shoulter-Douglas of Wynberg started a recycling project called Footprints in which she works with her father, Charles. Shoulter-Douglas does not draw a salary and recycles almost anything, including computers, oil, waste materials and tyres.

The campaign on 1time airline flights ended at the end of September. However, due to the overwhelming response to it, City Lodge has picked up the sponsorship and Gettliffe hopes Pass It On will continue “indefinitely”.

• To nominate an “angel” or find out more about Pass It On visit


The Witness contacted some of the local people who were nominated as “angels” in the Pass It On campaign. Some were unwilling to be identified, preferring to keep their kind deeds private, such as a Howick woman who takes care of the child of a working mother.

Marlene Berrington-Smith of Boughton was nominated by her brother, Dave Beckerling. She helps several charities whenever she can. In particular she prepares meals or bakes cakes for them. A member of the Prestbury Methodist Church, Berrington-Smith also assists some of its elderly members with meals or lifts and other needs.

Les Maker of Ashburton nominated his partner, Miriam Preston, for her devotion to animals. On their smallholding the couple keep a range of animals, including dogs, ducks and chickens. “She is passionate about caring for animals and treats them like her own children,” Maker said. “When I hear nothing, she can hear ducklings calling in distress and rushes to rescue them, then brings them indoors and nurses them.”

Marilyn Aitken, who works in the Emthonjeni women’s leadership and training programme at Reichenau Mission near Underberg, was nominated by Thoko Makhanya of Durban. Aitken is a member of The Grail lay order and has worked in community development for more than 30 years. Makhanya particularly identified the work Aitken has done in “running skills programmes to empower rural women”. These courses include HIV/Aids awareness, environmental education and small business development.

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