All for empowerment

2018-07-10 06:00
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PHOTO: amber court

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The Students Health and Welfare Centres Organisation (Shawco) celebrates its 75th anniversary this year and is no longer about hand-outs and dependency but empowerment.

“People know Shawco from standing in queues and collecting food. We are no longer in welfare, we are into empowerment,” the Kensington centre’s manager, Desmond van Niekerk’ stressed last week.

He was speaking to People’s Post at a children’s event to mark the organisation’s anniversary on Thursday 5 July.

“Welfare is creating a dependency idea – hand-outs. We are not into welfare, we are into empowerment, empowering young kids to understand that even when we give you something to eat, it’s not about you dependent on us but this is to create an opportunity for you so that you can learn because no-one can be taught on an empty stomach,” said Van Niekerk.

He explained that Shawco’s idea is for people, particularly children, to be able to put food on the table instead of standing in queues to collect it.

This as more than 100 children from various crèches under the banner of the Early Childhood Development (ECD) Forum gathered at the Kensington centre for celebrations on Thursday. It was a fun-filled day for the smiling children, with rides, games and a jumping castle providing an enjoyable atmosphere­.

A puppet show was used to give the children lessons on safety, health and hygiene. The children then got to fill their bellies with food provided after a day of hard work and fun.

Van Niekerk said the organisation has evolved since its establishment 75 years ago. He said it all started in Kensington. “Shawco started here in Kensington. This is the origin of it all.”

According to Shawco’s website, the organisation was started in July 1943 by Andrew Kinnear, a University of Cape Town medical student who spent his vacations driving an ambulance to earn money to pay for his medical training. He was appalled by the poverty, lack of hygiene and lack of medical facilities in areas like Kensington and Elsies River and became determined to do something about it.

Kinnear asked Dr Golda Selzer of the Pathology Department at Groote Schuur Hospital to assist him in establishing a clinic. Selzer became one of the co-founders of Shawco and remained its honorary life president until her death in 1999.

In 2001, Graca Machel, the widow of former president Nelson Mandela, agreed to become the centre’s new life president.

“What started off as a one-man initiative quickly grew into one of the country’s largest student volunteer organisations which ran health and welfare projects throughout South Africa’s apartheid era.”V Continued on page 4.

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