Published:  2015-05-16 Views:  1735
Published in:  BushTalk/VeldTalk
Nothing For Nothing

Nothing for nothing


VeldTalk Article



An innovative scheme that rewards young people for collecting rubbish for recycling is making a difference in the Joe Slovo informal settlement near Lanseria Airport.

“No hand-outs,” says Lelané Brits, Chief Operating Officer of Refilwe Community Project situated next to Joe Slovo. “Ninety-two kids from the settlement have been enrolled at our Ithuteng Aftercare Centre. There is one condition: collect and bring recyclable materials each Monday. There’s a plus though: the rubbish is weighed and exchanged for ‘mulas’ which can buy stationery, personal care items and basic food stuffs in a little Swap Shop. Our goal is to teach the children that things must be earned.”

Within two months of the centre opening, 40 kids collected eight tons of recyclable material. “I am one of the learners from the community that people think nothing good will come out of, or at least nothing worthwhile,” says Siyanda Thambela. “But we have dreams to break the cycle of poverty. Thanks to Refilwe our lives will change forever.”

“Refilwe has provided the space and resources for the Ithuteng Aftercare but the work on the ground is being done by volunteers from within the community of Joe Slovo, headed by the dynamic Nomaza Mariba,” says Lelané. Donations of stationery, non-perishable foods and toiletries to the Swap Shop will be very welcome.

The Refilwe Community Project was founded in 1991 by Jean Stewart, a professional nurse, and Yvonne Jacques, a pastor, as a Christian-based community development initiative among poor people in the Lanseria area.

A quarter of a century later it has grown into a major project with a budget of R350 000 per month. Projects include a pre-school (75 kids), an Early Childhood Education Outreach programme (reaching 780 children in 17 preschools nearby), a Saturday Kids Club, as well as a long-term foster programme and a Baby Home for abandoned infants.

Sue Frye, a horticulturalist with many years’ experience, runs the Refilwe Skills Development programme. “Our rapidly expanding worm farm uses earthworms to produce organic vermicast, liquid vermicast and an incredibly rich potting soil. The vermicast is used on site and is sold to the public and in bulk to schools and farmers. It is rich in nutrients and eliminates the need for chemical fertilisers.


Five people are presently being trained in the horticultural programmes: worm farm, nursery and fruit orchard, and carpentry training has started. Wooden planter boxes, are for sale as are indigenous plants and trees. Contact Sue on
Refilwe Bophelo Clinic works closely with the Community Project to render services to the local informal settlements.
Hundreds of volunteers - from overseas and local - have been involved in Refilwe’s projects. “Our mission is to design and implement care, support, education, training and mentoring programmes aimed to equip people in every aspect of their lives and to influence, motivate and assist others to achieve the same,” says Lelané. “Visitors are most welcome - just phone us first: 082 465 6972!”
If you are interested in volunteering, donating to the Swap Shop or assisting financially, go to for more information.

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