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On the 16th of June 2016, two Durban based companies, Wonderbag and Durban’s five-star Oyster Box Hotel, launched their first educational and economic-inclusive initiative for underprivileged communities in South Africa. The launch of the first phase of this ambitious initiative fittingly took place on Youth Day at Thembelihle Primary School in Howick to the parents of pupils who come from impoverished communities. The invited 300 parents enjoyed a tasty and healthy Wonderbag-cooked meal amidst lots of singing and uplifting educational demonstrations provided by Wonderbag’s activation teams. Not only did the local families leave with full stomachs and hearts, they were also the delighted recipients of subsidised Wonderbags for their homes.
Sarah Collins, Founder and CEO of Wonderbag, addressed the receptive crowd and acknowledged the importance of this momentous occasion being the 40th anniversary of the Sharpeville uprising as well as the significance for her of launching this community model in her hometown of Howick. “Howick is a very special place to me as it was here that I spent a few years learning from Dr Ian Player about my life’s purpose while living on his farm in the Karkloof. I believe that just like Hector and all the brave children who actively went about affecting change this day forty years ago – so too do we all have the power within us to improve our lives and that of our family’s and community. We want to protect our future leaders from the harsh realities and dangers of indoor air pollution and shack fires. So many children living in these communities face these dangers on a daily basis when trying to cook for themselves on open flames while their parents are working long hours to contribute to their family’s wellbeing. Thembelihle Primary School is a beacon of light to this inspiring community and is making a major impact on the lives of so many young people who come from a difficult living situation. We hope that through our partnership with them we can make even a small but significant difference to the lives of these children and their families through the power of the Wonderbag and it’s many end-user benefits,” Sarah shared.
Wonderbag as a brand is intrinsically linked to enhancing the overall quality of people’s lives through the many health, safety, economic and time-saving benefits of the product. The company has a history of empowering communities with women being identified as the key caregivers for families and communities across all races and classes. It’s also no secret that Collins’ has a passion for finding ways to empower people living in hard circumstances, which is why she was “overwhelmed” with the success of the first activation working with an established and reputed school and community organisation like Thembelihle Primary School.
Thembelihle Primary School is run independently and relies purely on donations to sustain its operations that cater for vulnerable children in the greater Howick region. The school also has ties to other community-focused centres that cater to the needs of the people living in this region. According to Principal Damon Shaw, this school is more than just an educational centre for Howick’s children and further serves the needs of the community as a safe haven. “The school’s name means ‘good hope’ and we are very proud of the trust and reputation we have earned from the families living here as they openly regard us as a beacon of hope to the community. We not only strive to provide our learners with a great education in the traditional sense, but we also provide them with a holistic life education which includes assisting with health care, emotional support and counselling as well as feeding them nutritional meals and providing health supplements to our students. Our school’s cook was given a big catering Wonderbag from Sarah and her team and she now swears by it for all the school’s cooking needs,” Shaw stated.
There are many instances and success stories already about how Thembelihle Primary School has helped countless children and their families overcome a variety of issues ranging from health to educational deficiencies. According to the school’s Chairman, Carolyn Hancock, the partnership of Wonderbag and The Oysterbox Hotel is a hugely exciting one with countless benefits to be had for the school and the community at large. “We are so grateful already to the generosity of both these entities. The Oysterbox Hotel not only covered the costs for the food provided at the Youth Day Wonderfeast, but they also donated an additional R25 000 which went towards covering the tuition of five of our learners for the year. The Wonderbag’s incredible donation of Wonderbags (valued at R90 000) has gone towards raising funds for the sustainability of our school. Sarah and I are both firm believers based on our experiences that the most effective form of empowerment to disadvantaged communities is through the provision of resources and knowledge, which will enable them to constructively improve the state of living of their families. That’s why during the Wonderfeast each family that attended was given a bag at a minimal cost, along with knowledge on how to derive the most benefit from the product. Our families were delighted to pay something for receiving a Wonderbag as it will not only benefit their own families, but the proceeds are also going straight back into their contributing to the operating expenses of the school – an important contribution for our parents who highly value the level of education offered to their children at Thembelihle,” explained Hancock.
Collins added, “By insisting that these families make a small contribution towards ‘buying’ their own Wonderbag they will appreciate the product much more and the likelihood is they will also use it regularly. That’s ultimately what we want because we know first-hand how this product can help enhance their lives in so many small but meaningful ways. This particular activation and launch with Thembelihle is a model that we would like to replicate across South Africa and eventually into Africa. We have seen the power and effectiveness of the Wonderbag with over 1 million bags already sold around the world and we know first-hand how this simple but revolutionary product can help communities in areas that are faced with poverty, health issues and a shortage of fuel resources.”
Thembelihle Primary School is just one of the centres in this area, which has become a pillar of strength within the Howick community. Also affiliated to the school is the Angels Care Centre which has a pre-school, a bridging class for children who have never had the chance to attend school, an aftercare programme for students to obtain assistance with their studies, a weekly feeding programme for over 300 children as well as a reputable crisis centre for children who are victims of gender based violence.