Disability Empowerment

JESSE NAIDOO - CLOTHES TO GOOD

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Clothes to Good was founded by Jacendra (Jesse) Naidoo in 2011. This is a hybrid social enterprise consisting of Clothes to Cash Exchange (Pty) Ltd and Life Link 24/7 Cares NPO which provides sustainable jobs and micro-business opportunities for people with disabilities and their families through a clothing recycling programme. 

Last month, during the recent SAB Foundation Social Innovation and Disability Empowerment Awards 2018, Clothes to Good was the overall winner for the Disability Empowerment Award taking home R1.2 million in funding. 

According to Jesse, Clothes to Good was started ‘unintentionally’ while he was trying to raise funds for his golf caddy of 10 years who had lost his job at the golf course. After contacting his son’s school about a second-hand clothing drive to raise funds, the school brought in over four tonnes of clothes which he bought from them so they could have funds to complete a library at another school. 

This is how the Clothes to Good business model started. He realised that this business model could evolve to exit people from poverty. A year later, Jesse met a social entrepreneur who opened his eyes and educated him about the huge challenges people with disabilities face when trying to find employment in South Africa. He then decided to include people with disabilities in his programme to empower them with meaningful, purposeful and paid work. 

Through all the financial challenges that Jesse faced, he never gave up on his dream to empower people living in poverty. Last year, he applied for the SAB Foundation Social Innovation and Disability Empowerment Awards after partnering with Tammy Greyling, an Occupational Therapist who is passionate about employment for people with disabilities. A few months later he received confirmation that as a team, they were accepted into the programme. “When we received the news, we felt really blessed. After eight years of failures and successes, we were  so relieved and thankful”, says Jesse.

When asked how it felt like the moment Clothes to Good name had been called at the recent Social Innovation and Disability Empowerment Awards, he said “I didn’t initially hear our name called! It was only when my business partner, Tammy grabbed my arm and said, “Let’s go” that it dawned on me we won, describes Jesse.

Jesse explains that winning the R1.2 million will help him take the business to the next level.  “The grant funding will be used to double our recycling capacity to source over 20 tonnes of clothes per month through our programmes. This will empower an additional 20 people with disabilities at our facility and increase the number of micro- business opportunities for people with disabilities and their families.”

He says that the funding will also assist Clothes to Good in expanding the new ECD project where toys are made from unusable clothing and other recyclable materials to empower teachers/caregivers through training and children through more educational resources. They also plan to expand their operations to Durban and Cape Town within the next three years.

Jesse encourages people who have a similar dream of starting their own business to go ahead and take the risk and not back down when they experience failure along the way.

“A person who fails in business is probably the best person to invest in. Those failures have given them skills that can’t be taught in business school. They also have what many people lack, the courage to try and the passion to succeed”, Jesse explains.

After just eight years, Clothes to Good has done a phenomenal job to serve its beneficiaries. They have empowered over 100 staff, contractors, volunteers, and registered over 300 micro- businesses, 55 of which are consistently active. They have also educated 200 000 children and their teachers about the environmental impact of the clothing sector and the plight of people with disabilities to become contributing members of societ

SCHALK VAN DER MERWE - RURAL HAND BIKES FOR WHEELCHAIR USERS

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Rural Hand Bikes are especially designed to be easily assembled and disassembled for wheelchair users. Hand Bikes, a recipient of R400 000 at last year's Disability Empowerment Awards, currently produces two models that simplify transfer and accessibility to and from a wheelchair. The basic design, made with easily maintainable and robust parts, makes this product unique and affordable for individuals living with a disability.

Watch the video below to find out more from founder, Schalk van der Merwe.

MICHAEL STEVENS - JUMPING KIDS

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Michael Stevens is the business partner of Johan Snyders. As the face of Marketing and Sales, Michael is passionate about the cause and hopes to make a difference in every facet of the business. He has been making use of prosthetics for twenty years – this after being in a traumatic car accident at the age of 12. He and Johan met while he was training for the London Paralympics in 2012. The friendship grew, and the need for prosthetic limbs for children was apparent more than ever. Together they formed Jumping Kids; highlighting the importance of mobility in children with disability, as well as the need for surrounding education.

Michael has a background in Marketing and PR, but is constantly refining his skills. A course in Social Entrepreneurship at GIBS led him to the SAB Foundation. They hope that they will obtain the funding in order to grow the business and be able to provide more prosthetics. He says that there are many, many customers – it is just a matter of getting funding in order to deliver the required services. Currently the business has no guarantee of income and staff members help out on a volunteer basis. Income is monitored on a year-to-year basis, and the majority of the pre and post-amputation clients are drawn to Jumping Kids through word-of-mouth. 

Nthando, who is 14 years old is a proof of their concept. He has just obtained a silver medal at the recent Paralympics. Nthando is a big part of the Jumping Kids business and can be seen as the face of their ideas in restoring dignity, providing inclusion and focusing on active living despite disability.

RIAD MASOET - HEEPD

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The SAB Foundation has formed a partnership with HeePD (Hub Employment Ecosystems for People with Disabilities), with a contribution of R2 100 000.

Launched in February 2017, HeePD seeks to benefit people with disabilities by creating a Hub ecosystem that provides employment, enterprise and innovation, including job prospects and placements for corporate partners.

“HeePD came in to being based on my own experience as a person with a disability, as well as from my observations as someone who’s worked in, and recruited for the corporate world. HeePD is a way of equalising the playing field for people with disabilities on a meaningful level, by addressing the main issues facing people with disabilities in getting jobs – creating permanent jobs in convenient locations and providing transport”, explains Founder of HeePD, .

The partnership came about as part of the SAB Foundation’s focus on building opportunities for some of the most vulnerable of South Africa’s society, particularly people with disabilities.

This working pilot project with HeePD focuses on three distinct areas; the establishment of contact centres and help desks, urban farming and recycling. “We’ve started upgrading the infrastructure to create the ecosystem at our pilot site – the Cape Town Association for the Physically Disabled in Bridgetown, Athlone. We’ll be offering skills development and training, bridging courses for students and jobs for people with disabilities here”, explains Masoet.

“Eventually companies will be able to support their services with our contact centres and help desks, staffed by people with visual and hearing impairments”. The urban farming project is up and running and the infrastructure development for the recycling project is under way.

Riad Moesat has sadly passed away on 12 May 2018 but his legacy will live on.

ZAHEID MUKKADEM - PARATREND

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Zahied is a passionate and friendly entrepreneur. We were welcomed into his Grassy Park home with as much love and warmth as humanely possible. His daughter, who is currently in her final year of Pharmaceutical Studies, served us with homemade samosas and milk tart. We began our photography journey after hearing the wonderful story behind how and why this business began.

Zahied has a practical background, and has always enjoyed working with his hands. It was twenty-two years ago that a traumatic accident left him paralysed from the rib cage down. He has come to know what needs, both basic and more advanced, there are when it comes to the development of the right kind of wheelchair. Zahied designed a double-tubed modular wheelchair which has been put together in such a way that the manufacturing costs are decreased – making the wheelchair less expensive as a whole.

While manufacturing the wheelchair, he studies part-time, lectures at CPUT and works in I.T. He would like to complete his Masters in Digital Forensics in the next few years.

Zahied heard about the SAB Foundation when he approached his bank for a business loan. He is wanting to use possible funding to expand his business and make the wheelchairs as affordable and light as possible. The goal is to get the weight of the wheelchair from its current 12 kg mark, to 8 kg.

Zahied has partnered with an online company who locates customers. At the moment, it is only Zahied, the mechanic suppliers who are mainly from Germany, and his family members who are part of the business. 

He is currently working on making the chair look “sexier” and is very happy with the ergonomically correct positioning of the chair. This is absolutely crucial for a person spending all day in the chair. Zahied knows and appreciates the value of true understanding, and believes that his design of chair understands the need of the person using it.

NICK SMIT AND NICOLE VERGOS - SMERGOS

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The company, which was awarded R300 000 at last year’s Disability Empowerment Awards, is dedicated to creating a range of wheelchair bags and other accessories that provide much needed functionality to wheelchair users. They provide a choice of simple, personalised bag designs that fit neatly onto any wheelchair, giving their customers a safe and easily-accessible way of carrying their belongings.

Watch the video below to find out more from co-founders, Nick Smit and Nicole Vergos.

NICK DE LA HUNT - FINGER TALK

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Last year Finger Talk, South Africa's first mobile app for learning South African Sign Language (SASL), was awarded R150 000 at the Disability Empowerment Awards. The app was developed to get SASL into the hands of the masses and provide more than 400 000 deaf South Africans as well as their families and friend with a means to communicate. 

Watch the video below to find out more from founder, Nick de la Hunt.