The SAB Foundation Social Innovation and Disability Empowerment Awards returned this year to support and help grow programmes and companies that empower communities and people with disabilities. MARISKA MORRIS attended the Awards to learn more.
The 20 winners of the 2018 SAB Foundation Social Innovation and Disability Empowerment Awards were announced on October 11, 2018, in Johannesburg. The first-place winners took home more than R1 million each for their innovations and will enjoy further support from the SAB Foundation to ensure that their businesses grow.
“Through the awards, the SAB Foundation finds, supports and scales social innovations that demonstrate a sustainable business model while solving a critical social problem,” explains Ntandokazi Nodada, SAB Foundation Social Innovation Project Manager.
“To date, the Foundation has committed more than R75 million towards promoting social innovations and supported 163 businesses that address social issues and provide solutions for people with disabilities,” she added.
The Disability Empowerment awards recognise innovations that will improve the lives of people with disabilities through assistive devices, training or employment. Under the Disability Empowerment programme, there were six winners. Three were awarded a Development Award of R300 000 each: Pathfinder Smartcane, an artificial-intelligence driven hand-held device; Hamba Nathi, an affordable ride-sharing service; and the Walking with Brandon Foundation, which runs advanced neurological-rehabilitation programmes.
Of the remaining three candidates, third place, with prize money of R600 000, went to Voice Activated Quality of Life (VoQoL), a voice-activated tech device that gives quadriplegic and paraplegic individuals the ability to control elements in their home environments – such as lights, TVs, radios and air conditioners – using verbal commands. They can also access information online such as weather forecasts and news.
Steps Clubfoot Care received the second-place prize of R800 000. The non-profit organisation works with children born with clubfoot – a common birth defect that affects about 2 000 children in South Africa annually. Steps Clubfoot Care was also awarded the Audience Choice award of R100 000.
First place, of R1,2 million, was awarded to Clothes to Good, an enterprise that provides sustainable jobs and micro-business opportunities for people with disabilities and their families through a clothing-recycling programme. Clothing is sourced from school and staff donations, then sorted, washed, repaired or sold in bundles to various beneficiaries.
These can be resold at a substantial profit to enhance the seller’s financial freedom, while reducing the waste of an average 24 000 tonnes of clothing that gets thrown away each year.
Jesse Naidoo, the founder, notes: “It all started with a brand-new pair of golf shoes that I received and didn’t need. I asked my caddie, Lucky, if he’d like a new pair. The caddie master, on seeing the new golf shoes, said that he wanted them and the two got into an argument.
“Lucky was eventually fired from the club. What I thought was a nice gesture to a man who had served me for more than ten years ended up a disaster. At the same time Lucky’s wife, Daisy, also lost her job as a seamstress because of the failing clothing-manufacturing industry in South Africa. Both were jobless, with three boys to support!”
While reading The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid by CK Prahalad (and with some encouragement from his wife, who wanted a walk-in-wardrobe), Jesse realised that their old clothes could be resold by Lucky and Daisy. Of course, that wouldn’t be enough old clothes.
“I approached then Crawford Pretoria principal Ian McLeod (who passed away in 2017) to run a second-hand clothing programme. Our commitment was to buy the clothes from the school to raise money for the Irene Farm School Library, which was under construction. Ian agreed. Little did we know that we would recycle just short of four tonnes of clothes within 30 days,” Jesse says.
Needing somewhere to store all the donated clothes, Jesse rented the house of a neighbour who had emigrated and, in 2011, Clothes to Good was born. Today, the organisation has a number of clothing-exchange programmes, including Clothes to Cash; Clothes to Trees, in which people can contribute to the planting of trees; Clothes to Wheels, where people can subsidise a wheelchair; Clothes to Food, which packs meals in conjunction with Rise Against Hunger; and Clothes to Play, which assists with early childhood development kits made from recycled material.
Jesse was inspired to introduce more programmes after meeting Shona McDonald, founder of Shonaquip. He says: “Shona opened my eyes to the plight of people with disabilities and showed me how they are often trapped in poverty. She convinced me of the need to provide meaningful work and business opportunities for people with disabilities.”
At the invitation of Tammy Greyling, co-founder of Pathways Pretoria school for children and adults with disabilities, the Clothes to Good recycling facility was run from the school. The adults were given the opportunity to test and improve their work-readiness skills at the facility.
“We discovered that within three months of integrating people with disabilities, the productivity of our so-called able-bodied staff increased on average by 20 percent. Tammy now leads our non-profit organisation Life Link 24/7 Cares,” says Jesse, “and is responsible for the inclusion of people with disabilities in our eco system.”
Clothes to Good runs other initiatives, including assisting people with disabilities and their employers with the employment process. The life-skills and employment training at Clothes to Good facility will launch in 2019.
In addition to the financial benefit, winning the SAB Foundation Award has a special, personal meaning for its members. “It reinforces what Tammy and I believe: that South Africans care about the employment of people with disabilities; the empowerment of mothers of children with disabilities; and our environment,” says Jesse. “We are excited that people with disabilities will be making a meaningful contribution to our country by recycling clothes and making toys for low-resourced early childhood development centres.”
Learn more about the Clothes to Goods programmes by visiting the website at www.c2cx.co.za or contacting Jesse directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 012 663 4168. Keep an eye on the fortnightly Rolling Inspiration newsletter and the 2019 issues to learn more about how you can enter the SAB Foundation Social Innovation and Disability Empowerment Awards.