SHAWCO's new fundraising, marketing and public relations manager, Greer Blizzard, says working with students for the first time in her career is proving to be a highly rewarding experience.
"I am learning as I go, and I enjoy their energy and enthusiasm," she says. "I am amazed at how they always go way beyond the call of duty".
SHAWCO, says Blizzard, is a "good, solid 'brand', and one of her main aims will be to consolidate this, both on and off campus, and to draw more attention to some of the organisation's many achievements.
SHAWCO, a student-run NPO based at UCT, seeks to improve the quality of life for individuals in developing communities within the Cape Metropolitan areas. It is the largest student-run organisation in South Africa.
Currently it has 2 050 student volunteers running at least 25 health and education projects at a host of SHAWCO centres, as well as at other locations within the Cape Metropole.
Education projects are run in Khayelitsha, Nyanga, Manenberg, Kensington and Hout Bay, while health clinics are run in Gugulethu, Khayelitsha, Philippi, Joe Slovo, Masiphumelele in Noordhoek, Imizamo Yethu in Hout Bay and Du Noon in Milnerton.
SHAWCO's Social Enterprise arm is involved in three initiatives: Rags2Riches, SHAWCO Community Transport Services and SHAWCO Shift IT, which generate a surplus of funds to support its sustainability efforts.
Blizzard joins SHAWCO at a momentous time – 2013 sees the organisation celebrating 70 years of service. The organisation was started in July 1943 by Andrew Kinnear, a UCT medical student, who spent the vacation 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 SHAWCO honorary life president until her death in 1999. In 2001, GraÃ§a Machel, UCT's chancellor, agreed to become SHAWCO's new life president.
Blizzard has previously worked in the small to medium enterprises (SME) space, predominantly in the marketing field, and also has experience in the area of corporate social investment (CSI).She was involved in two organisations where she was responsible for managing CSI projects.
She says SHAWCO is being proactive in a space that is "challenging", having changed from an organisation that was fully funded to one which now has several of its own revenue-generating initiatives.
"We're therefore becoming more and more self-sustainable."
For SHAWCO to survive and thrive, it has had to rethink its strategy, which has seen it review its current assets and look for revenue-generating opportunities.
The move has resulted in a number of initiatives that provide surplus cash flow for the organisation, which is then invested into its education and health projects.
These initiatives include Rags 2Riches, which sees clothes donations – mainly from UCT students and staff – being washed, sorted and sold at SHAWCO's Rags2Riches shop in Mowbray, and SHAWCO Community Transport Services, which hires out buses to other NPOs, schools, clubs, churches and organisations.
Blizzard sees SHAWCO's education initiatives, including Saturday School, as powerful interventions during this time of education crisis in South Africa.
"Education projects, whether run by students or staff, help learners to access education, increase access to tertiary study, and offer additional interventions such as arts, sports, entrepreneurship, life skills and career advice.
In addition, 2012 ended on a high note, with three pupils from Windermere High School in Kensington, who participated in the KenSMART project, being nominated as the overall Top Achievers in their respective grades (Grades 8, 10 and 11).
Blizzard says she has a passion for sustainable development and social responsiveness and, when she is not working, you will find her in a pool or running on the road. At the moment, she says, it's all about gearing up for the Two Oceans Half Marathon.
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