“I’d never seen or experienced anything like it. Against the backdrop of the utter poverty that exists in the townships, you’ve got this school, which is so full of life and positivity, it blew me away. It was at this point I knew I wanted to do a lot more to help and support the school continue its amazing work”
Since this point OnlineDIRECT has made regular donations and contributions to support the school including the purchase of school supplies such as pens, paper and stationery. In 2019, David Coombs, CEO of OnlineDIRECT wanted to deepen the relationship further by funding the visit of two members of staff for a week to work alongside the teachers and staff at the school. David felt it would prove a once in a lifetime experience for those selected;
“One of the main reasons our business has thrived for more than 20 years is because we strongly believe in ‘doing the right thing’. This might sound trite to some but it’s a belief we actively practice across the business including the special relationship we maintain with Umyezo. Therefore, with the School always in need of volunteers, it felt natural for us to send out a couple of team members to lend a hand. Of course, it also offers a life changing experience for our staff, to see the world from an entirely new perspective.”
OnlineDIRECT asked all its staff members interested in volunteering to enter a ballot with the two successful applicants being selected at random. The response was overwhelming with over 70% of the business entering the ballot. After much excitement the draw took place at the end of April with the two names being drawn; Curtis Avery and Joseph Corkram.
On Friday the 17th of May, Curtis and Joe, flew to South Africa and began their adventure. During the course of the week that followed they were taken on an emotional roller coaster as they were exposed to the reality of living in this part of Cape Town.
Curtis recalls one day in particular
“When school finished we were driven behind the school bus as it dropped off the pupils, it can seat 15 but there were 40 kids on it, it took about 2 hours because, for their own protection, it drops off each kid at their front door. It was on this trip we got to see the township of Gugulthu, this is where a lot of the kids live and seeing these terrible and challenging conditions close up was really hard and emotional.”
On the flip side, through their day to day work in supporting the teachers Joe was astounded by the energy of the children;
“Even the first morning we turned up we were bowled over by the welcome we received. There were high fives and hugs all around! Despite their circumstances, these children were so happy and positive, it was completely infectious. I even got to break out my guitar on the odd occasion and enjoy a sing-song, we even taught them Baby Shark, although the teachers might not be thanking us for that now!”
With the success of this exercise OnlineDIRECT will undoubtedly look to repeat it or similar in 2020 as well as continuing its ongoing commitment to supporting the outstanding work of the people at Umyezo Children’s Garden.