Estate agency group MaxProp Westville has taken its sense of community way beyond the leafy suburban streets – into the heartland of Inanda where accessibility is limited to quads and hiking up and down perilous mountain sides.
The decision to dedicate Wednesday mornings to delivering food parcels, second-hand clothing and toys to HIV/Aids orphans stems from a chance reading by agent Sue Foster about charity work being undertaken in the remote Valley of a Thousand Hills area above Inanda Dam.
Project O founders, British couple Martin and Vashti Downs, developed their commitment and passion for helping disadvantaged children from their experiences working in the New York ghettos and in their travels over five continents.
Their KZN initiative works with the HIV/Aids orphans in Durban with the vision to see these children fully supported within families or in wholly self-sufficient homes. According to the organisation, these homes would be environments in which the children could be safely, caringly and lovingly looked after in a manner that provides hope and the opportunity to grow and thrive.
Project O aims to help children infected or affected by HIV/Aids by providing financial assistance, support, education and basic medical care “within the loving and supportive environment of Christian teachings”.
Changing the vision into reality means hauling a small trailer behind a quad for more than an hour each day to deliver food parcels to five families. These are communities living miles from the nearest main road on paths that cause even the quads and their riders to take strain.
Reading this prompted Sue’s telephone call to Project O and her initial foray into rural eThekwini.
The Project O philosophy acknowledges that the HIV/Aids pandemic creates orphans too rapidly for the traditional welfare and fund-raising system to be effective. The solution was to develop wholly self-sustainable homes, each housing six children.
The Downses say that was no easy task as their research suggests that no organisation has yet managed to achieve 100% self-sufficiency for children’s homes. “We have pioneered several projects that will, in theory, sustain at least one home as each project includes wind turbines and solar panels for free electricity.”
The concept used green electricity sources, organic vegetable farming for food supplies, compost generated from kitchen waste and, in the longer-term, opportunities for income generation from tourism-related ventures.
The model focuses on keeping siblings together and retaining children within their communities rather than moving them to children’s homes that are situated beyond their scope of personal exposure.
Sue challenges local businesses to come on board, while calling on residents to use her MaxProp branch as a drop-off point for donated food, unwanted toys and second-hand clothes.