Volunteering + Crowdfunding = New age community service

Lezerine Mashaba is changing the way we look at fundraising and community activism.

Soft-spoken Mashaba uses the power of the internet to change the lives of those who are most vulnerable in Cape Town’s most populous township, Khayelitsha.

Mashaba, 28, has utilised crowdfunding to help construct a brick and mortar structure, which will house an orphanage.

Crowdfunding has become common in the technology sector after the 2008 global economic meltdown.

But Mashaba hopes the Qaqambani Safety Home in Harare, Khayelitsha moves into its new home by the middle of this year.

In all her years of activism, she admits sourcing funding for the project has been the greatest challenge that she has ever encountered.

“We didn’t get a cent from the government. I’m working with a lady called Renata who helped with fundraising for the house.

“We put together a profile of the home, and she made a video in Portuguese with her friends, and I tried to gather stories of the kids and that’s when people starting donating from all over the world,” says Mashaba.

She insists no government department contributed any cent to the construction of the house, and all credit was due to the activists.

“We do so much work and then government comes and claims it as their own. It makes me very upset,” says Mashaba.

The house will cost R122 000, and the duo have already managed to raise R130 000 with furniture included they will have to raise R150 000.

“I grew up with my grandmother along with my three brothers and two sisters,” says Mashaba of her life in Ga-Mampa in Limpopo.

While she had been involved in a dance troupe as a youngster, she says her first role as a community activist came when she joined HIV/Aids NGO LoveLife as a “groundbreaker”- basically a peer educator.

“It was a Pedi dance group, we’d go to weddings and cultural events and dance for free. With the donations we would usually buy snacks,” says Mashaba.

As a peer educator with LoveLife she was responsible for ten high schools, educating learners about the dangers of HIV/Aids through debates, games and plays.

“They also gave me a role, as a groundbreaker to co-ordinate the radio programme which was based at the youth centre. We had about 30 presenters that I needed to train and work with, on basic radio skills,” says Mashaba.

She went on to start her own business, opening a internet cafe in 2006 in Jane Furse while still working for LoveLife. Two years later the internet cafe had to close after she moved to Cape Town, and realising that managing it remotely was near-impossible.

Come to Cape Town in 2008 was an eye-opener.

“It was my first time flying, the first time seeing the sea, [I thought] so much water ‘woo’,” says an animated Mashaba of her first encounters with the Mother City.

Six years later she admits: “I still can’t connect to the sea. I’m an inland person, I’m used to rivers and mountains.

Away from her home comforts, Mashaba says the biggest lesson for her during the initial months of her stay in Cape Town was learning to be independent.

“I was given projects that I needed to research by myself, I needed to organise workshops, and I had to learn to work with people who I didn’t know. I had to adapt, and learn at the same time,” says Mashaba.

What had also helped her adapt to life in the Mother City, and its countless attractions was the principles and values she was taught at the feet of her grandmother who raised her in Ga-Mampa.

In 2008 she was nominated as one of the 200 top young South Africans.

Mashaba’s involvement with ACTIAVTE! started in 2010, first as an intern “assisting with everything” until she was formally appointed as a trainer.

“My job is to facilitate the ACTIVATE! programmes, the curriculum and also train some of the methodologies, innovative tools and some of the elements that are incorporated in some of the curriculum,” says Mashaba.

One of the modules which features prominently in the curriculum is one which deals with the importance of volunteerism, and Mashaba says her work at the Qaqambani Safety Home dovetails with this principle.

“While she speak about volunteerism, we don’t just talk about it as an abstract subject,” says Mashaba.

She says one of the Activators had identified Qaqambani as a place where they could volunteer.

“We used to have about 23 children here. Some of the children, who are vulnerable would be brought here by social workers while their parents would be dealing with their stuff,” says Mashaba.

There are also a small group of children at the home who have been abandoned, and adopted by Sylvia Mankayi who opened the home in 1991 after rescuing an abandoned baby.

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