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Silver lining on the horizon for Diepsloot
18 July 2008

With a financial boost and good old-fashioned human kindness, the residents of Diepsloot are set for a brighter future. A new community centre will ensure that the poorest of the poor are educated and financially empowered.

The entrance to Diepsloot
The entrance to Diepsloot

DIEPSLOOT, one of Johannesburg's poorer townships with an estimated half of its 150 000 residents unemployed, will receive a R2-million cash injection for skills development.

Property investment holding company, Growthpoint Properties Limited, is investing the money which will go towards building a vibrant centre called Zikhuliseni (develop yourself). The centre will house various proficiency development initiatives.

According to Growthpoint Properties' CEO, Norbert Sasse, the community will be provided with training in a diverse range of skills from computer literacy to sewing, beadwork, fabric painting, welding and ironwork, bricklaying as well as a vegetable garden school.

"Zikhuliseni compliments and enhances Growthpoint's corporate social investment programmes. One of the initiatives, The Property Point, nurtures and empowers entrepreneurs, micro and small businesses," says Sasse.

The new centre will form an integral part of Bophelong Place of Life, a combined initiative of the Diepsloot community, Bryanston Methodist Church, several charity organisations and Growthpoint Properties.

Some of the upliftment projects that fall under Bophelong include Akani, Wings of Life, the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (Sanca), and Themba.

The Akani Centre supports some 600 township children ranging from age five to 15 by providing meals, home assistance, computer training and art studies. Situated on the R551 next to new shopping mall, the 2 000m²Akani Centre hosts a number of classrooms and a large hall with kitchens and ablutions.

Founded in 2000, the Wings of Life project focuses on educating and supporting the youth of Diepsloot. The primary school is designed to meet the needs of those children who are from the poorest families in the surrounding areas. The services include medical, educational and legal assistance. A wellness centre will soon be built to improve the health of its 600 pupils.

Diepsloot is also tackling the problem of substance abuse, with dagga, alcohol, glue and benzene some of the more commonly found drugs. In 2007, Sanca, in partnership with Bophelong, opened a counselling facility to educate and rehabilitate those who struggle with drug abuse.

A project that will benefit directly from Growthpoint's strategic investment in Zikhuliseni, is Themba Skills Centre. The centre focuses on providing women with training in sewing and craftworks. Themba was launched in 2003 and proudly boasts with 100 registered members from Diepsloot.

Themba aims to enable every person in Diepsloot to become self-sufficient. After an extensive training programme, the graduates are supplied with equipment to set up their own businesses. In 2007, the centre managed to earn R250 000 by selling products produced by its trainees.

Zikhuliseni will be built on the same premises as Themba. And, with the new community centre, comes a new curriculum. Computer skills will be added to the existing programme which includes the art of sewing, beadwork and fabric painting.

Themba will also benefit from a retail outlet and tea garden that will form part of Zikhuliseni. These facilities are aimed at attracting and encouraging tourism in the area.

Zikhuliseni will also accommodate a Vegetable Garden School. The garden will enable Diepsloot residents to grow their own cash crops all year round. Training of students will be provided and certified by AgriSETA.

Bophelong Place of Life will soon introduce a counselling facility and a "Clinic of Hope" specially designed for HIV/Aids testing, dispensing of retroviral medication and the treatment of sexually transmitted diseases.

Says Sasse: "We are proud to be associated with this exceptional initiative, and we are excited about the benefit that Growthpoint's investment can bring to individuals, the community, businesses and the economy in general".

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