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HELPING TO BUILD A COHESIVE COMMUNITY

In the highly competitive world of real estate, there is not much time for focusing on anything but the business.  But when an agent looks beyond the houses on his books, and takes note of the needs of the wider community, the results can be significant.  One such example is Doug Gurr of Pam Golding Properties’ Franschhoek office, who from small initial acts of outreach has built a registered non-profit organisation that is literally changing the lives of hundreds of children in the Franschhoek Valley.
 


Gurr moved to the Franschhoek region in 2002, and immediately began interacting with children from the local township schools, playing soccer with them and assisting them with lifts home from school.  This gave him first-hand experience of the dire conditions in which many were living, and particularly, the poorly equipped schooling facilities available to them, often at great distance from their homes, and without reliable public transport.  Gurr joined hands with another local resident, American Dave Riordan, and together they began spending free time reading stories to the children at a local primary school, and organising sports activities for them.  From this small beginning, “The Kusasa Project” (meaning “tomorrow” in Xhosa) was born.  Volunteers were recruited and the programme began expanding to include additional schools and a broader range of outreach activities.  The programme was registered as a charitable trust in South Africa in 2007, and is now also registered in the UK and Holland, as well as having affiliation in the United States.


 
Today, The Kusasa Project reaches nearly 2000 children at six different schools in the Franschhoek Valley, plus a number of crèches and its own Early Learning Centre, which opened in January 2012 thanks to funds raised via Kusasa donors.  The project’s Breakfast Club feeds over 700 children every day and has just served up its 500 000th meal, while a network of over 60 volunteers reads to the children, helps them with homework and transport, and organises field trips to broaden their horizons.  The project also raises funds for high school scholarships and school uniforms, and offers clubs in activities like ballet, chess, art, soccer and running – extra-mural activities that were previously beyond the reach of these children due to a complete absence of funding and transport.  Life skills programmes help build the children’s self-confidence, and teach positive social interaction, emphasizing values of respect and unity.
 


Gurr says many of the volunteers are affluent residents of the valley and its upmarket security estates, as well as children of the private Bridge House school.  As a result, he says the project is doing more than just providing educational assistance – it’s also building bridges between communities who might otherwise never connect with one another.  “This has produced significant community cohesion,” he says, “whereby everyone is comfortable, respectful, understanding and intimate with each other’s society.  We believe these children are far less likely to travel down a negative path if they come to know and understand the broader society and wider world.  The wealthier side of Franschhoek is a community that reaches out to those less fortunate, and we have provided a vehicle by which they can engage this desire to a very positive effect.”
 
PGP’s MD for the Boland and Overberg regions, Annien Borg, says the project has helped shift perceptions in the valley in a very positive way.  “When people consider moving to the countryside, two of their biggest motivating factors are generally the search for security and a sense of community,” she says.  “The area in which Kusasa operates used to be a cause for concern for many residents, who worried about crime and the effect on property values in the valley.  This kind of negative perception keeps businesses away, prevents development, and erodes the sense of community cohesiveness.  What Kusasa is doing is to literally bridge that chasm and replace negative perceptions with positive inter-personal interactions that are changing people’s views of one another for the better.  Now, it’s something that the community as a whole can be proud of, and it’s the kind of community everyone wants to be part of and wants to invest in.”

PGP’s involvement with the project has included sponsorship of soccer teams and volunteer involvement by its Franschhoek agents and support staff.  Gurr was also awarded the company’s national Lions Award this year (2012), recognising an agent who has contributed to positive change in their community, and who embodies social upliftment and good corporate citizenship.
 
“We realised we could create something significant,” concludes Gurr.  “We believed we could raise funds, and could motivate and encourage others to get involved if we established a registered organisation that was structured, professional and business-like. This has worked as planned, but the true success of The Kusasa Project is down to the wonderful volunteers, both local and international, plus the legions of generous supporters, who embrace and understand the joy of giving and the critical nature of global social responsibility.”


 
For more information on property for sale in Franschhoek or The Kusasa Project, contact Doug Gurr on 021 876 2100, 072 460 2586 or winelandsint@pamgolding.co.za.  PGP’s MD for the Boland and Overberg regions, Annien Borg, can be reached at annien.borg@pamgolding.co.za.


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