A lunch for seniors and an after-school and holiday programme are some of the projects run by the non-profit organisation (NPO) Parkwood Community Upliftment Organisation (PCU) to empower residents. “We created gardens at dumping hot spots, to make the community eco-friendly and we have a feeding scheme where we feed the most vulnerable in the community and serving a meal to the children who attend our programmes,” says Max Swartz, co-founder of the organisation.The organisation also started a reading club to enhance literacy and ignite a passion for books. Other programmes that are offered include after school and holiday programmes where children can have fun in a safe environment.“Our main focus is to keep our children occupied and create unity among the youth and the younger children. We also want to create a much better alternative than the social ills, that plagues our communities,” Swartz says.Their youth programme helps develop the youth into understanding and skilled people. With this programme, they create positive role models, leaders and encourage further education to become successful.“PCU partners with businesses to provide opportunities for the residents, to expand the labour market prospects. Our animal outreach and education programme empowers and educates the community, to take better care of their animals and also to create awareness about animal cruelty and health,” he says.PCU, also known as MJ Puppy Shelter, was the dream of Swartz as a teenager from Parkwood. He is an animal lover and volunteered at the Cape of Good Hope SPCA in Grassy Park.He later joined as a volunteer at Voice of Parkwood, which is the umbrella under which he does all his projects.“I am running these outreach programmes in Parkwood and surrounding areas, to create employment for people to sustain their families in different ways, as well as to be upskilled. We are a group of volunteers who have partnered to create change,” he says.The volunteers have one common goal, and they have gained different skills.“Together we want to make a difference and we believe the heart of a volunteer is not measured in size but by the depth of their commitment to make a difference in the lives of others. I want to encourage each and every teenager out there to move forward, stay positive and never give up,” he says.The CPU recently hosted a senior citizen’s lunch that was well attended.