Initiative honoured

2016-08-31 06:00
ELANI VAN DER BURGH of the Elanja Children’s Initiative (ECI) is the recipient of the Pep and Vodacom Community Builder of the Year prize. Here she is with sponsors and some of the beneficiaries of the project. From the left are, front: Rolene De Kock, Lesego April, Bofelo Moaro and Lunchay Jafta; back: Marelize Beukes (Vodacom go-to-market manager), Sunete Els (Vodacom executive head), Van der Burgh and Chris van Rooyen (Pep general manager). Photo: Teboho Setena

ELANI VAN DER BURGH of the Elanja Children’s Initiative (ECI) is the recipient of the Pep and Vodacom Community Builder of the Year prize. Here she is with sponsors and some of the beneficiaries of the project. From the left are, front: Rolene De Kock, Lesego April, Bofelo Moaro and Lunchay Jafta; back: Marelize Beukes (Vodacom go-to-market manager), Sunete Els (Vodacom executive head), Van der Burgh and Chris van Rooyen (Pep general manager). Photo: Teboho Setena

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THE initiator of a lifeblood project caring for approximately 450 school children has received the honour of being named the Pep and Vodacom Community Builder of the Year for 2016.

Elani van der Burgh is the recipient of the prestigious award for her sustainable Elanja Children’s Initiative (ECI), a feeding scheme project which has been running since 1999.

A teacher by profession, Van der Burgh received R30 000 towards the project. She was presented the prize at a function held at the Olympia Primary School in Heidedal, Bloemfontein, on Wednesday (24/08).

With the prize money, she purchased shoes for 250 learners of the Olympia Primary School.

Van der Burgh is the inaugural recipient of the award, initiated by the sponsors with the chief objective of recognising people who selflessly dedicate their time to improving the quality of life of others in their communities. The competition is for the Free State and Northern Cape.

Sunette Els, executive head of Vodacom, said they were proud to have joined hands with Pep to support a nation-builder project such as the Elanja Children’s Initiative, which can help children from disadvantaged communities and make a difference.

Van der Burgh said she had quit her teaching job at Heide Primary School to run the feeding project full-time. Through this initiative, she is helping desperate, underprivileged and neglected primary school children by providing in their basic needs of food, clothing and social welfare.

“I quit my teaching job to start the project at Heide Primary after seeing the desperation and suffering of many children due to hunger. Some fainted at assembly. I immediately thought of starting this project. For most of the children, it is the sole provider of their daily meal. Many of these children are from impoverished backgrounds, living with unemployed parents,” said Van der Burgh.

She started with 84 children at her former school (Heide) and with time, the number increased significantly.

“It is amazing to see the hope you can give to many children by just showing them how much you care for and loving them when people in their community have abandoned them. You give children dignity by caring for them and I’m hoping to restore hope in the lives of these children.”

She said the feeding scheme had mainly been run on Saturdays and in time the numbers increased tremendously, compelling her to cater on weekdays as well. Van der Burgh said the majority of the children from less fortunate backgrounds were dependent on the project for food. Through the initiative of two auxiliary social workers from the community, they have employed a seamstress and chefs from the community to assist with the project.

Van der Burgh said the project was also supported by community members who made winter clothes and tracksuits for the learners at four primary schools.

“We select children that are most vulnerable.”

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