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Changing the Lives of Children in Johannesburg

Shingirai Tashayawedu joined the Johannesburg Changemakers as Consul in November 2016. Since then, he has built a remarkable partnership with several local NGOs and encouraged many InterNations members to collect school materials and clothes for young children. Here, Shingirai describes how he makes a difference in his city.

Johannesburg is the hub of South Africa and has been a melting pot of cultures since gold was first struck on the Witwatersrand escarpment, and people flocked to the area to seek their fortune. Today, it remains a popular destination for expats as key industries operate in the area, and many companies have their headquarters for the African continent in the city.

However, Johannesburg is also a city of extremes, with the legacy of apartheid contributing to vast inequalities. To address this, Shingirai and the Johannesburg Changemakers concentrate their efforts on supporting local NGOs that aim to give vulnerable children a better chance in life.

Johannesburg itself is located on the Highveld, at an elevation of 1,753 meters, which gives the metropolis a cooler climate during the winter months, with temperatures occasionally dropping below freezing. This weather inspired Shingirai to help. “It was on a very cold day in June a few years back that I realized I have to do something to help inner city children. The first question that I asked myself was, ‘What can I do as an individual to make a difference in the lives of these children?’ That’s when I thought of posting an activity to collect clothing for children and the response was so exciting.”

The Sky's the Limit

Inspired by their own success, the group has now organized four clothing collections, and the donations go to the Benoni Child Welfare organization, which operates in the eastern districts of the city. Their aim is to protect vulnerable children and give them more opportunities in life by improving their physical and emotional well-being. The organization also manages a safe house in the city, where 60 children are accommodated each year.

Shingirai also organizes activities to support local schools, including the Ithemba Study Centre, an NPO school in Yeoville that provides learning programs for orphans, the vulnerable, children from generally disadvantaged backgrounds, asylum seekers, and refugees. So far, the Changemakers have helped to teach children computer skills, collected stationery and textbooks for students, and donated sanitary products for girls.

Shingirai’s advice for new Consuls? “Discouragement and distractions will come along the way but the most important thing is to have a passion for the vision of the InterNations Changemakers. As a new Consul, the desire to put a smile on the faces of those that you want to make a difference for is vital, and when you decide to be a leader, don’t give up too easily. The most important thing to do as a new Changemakers Consul is to relate to your environment and identify the needs of those you are helping.”

Are you curious about what the Changemakers Group in your city is doing or would you like to get involved? Then learn more about the InterNations Changemakers and find out how to make a difference.

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