Volunteers play their part at Ethembeni

Volunteers have a big role in helping Ethembeni Children’s Home care for children infected with or affected by HIV/Aids. The Go The Extra Mile campaign makes it even easier for them to get involved.

Founded by The Salvation Army in 1995, Ethembeni Children’s Home in Doornfontein, Johannesburg, is a refuge for children from in and around the inner city. (Image: Mathiba Molefe

Mathiba Molefe

In the heart of Johannesburg’s bustling inner city lies a sanctuary for children either infected with or affected by HIV/Aids. It is a place where those left destitute by the endemic find refuge, a place that was fittingly named Ethembeni, meaning “place of hope” in isiXhosa.

Volunteers, many of whom are part of the Go the Extra Mile (GEM) campaign, visit the safe haven weekly, as they did on the weekend of 8 and 9 April. Ethembeni is in Doornfontein on the eastern edge of the CBD.

The group of volunteers arrived early in the morning, bright-eyed and ready to get stuck into their work helping the nurses and other staff at the home. When they weren’t busy spending quality time with the children, either playing games or feeding them, the volunteers also lent a hand in the general upkeep of the home and its facilities.

“It’s nice to know that there are people out there who are willing to take the time to come and help out here at the home,” said Lucia Ntombela, the site manager at Ethembeni. “Nowadays people don’t have much time; people are busy. For them to take that hour or two hours to come and volunteer knowing that you won’t get paid. I really admire them.

“It’s really beautiful to see, and we have a lot of people to thank for helping us.”

Founded by The Salvation Army in 1995, Ethembeni now serves as a home to nearly 60 children from in and around Johannesburg’s inner city.

“Some of the children arrive here and it’s difficult for them to smile. But as time goes on they slowly open up and start smiling again,” she said.

It is a place where those left destitute by the endemic find refuge, a place that was fittingly named Ethembeni, meaning “place of hope” in isiXhosa. (Image: Mathiba Molefe)

Go the Extra Mile

GEM is a social development drive that was created to get people actively involved in the development of organisations and initiatives that aim to improve people’s lives, such as Ethembeni.

By rewarding volunteers for their involvement, GEM hopes the incentive will drive more and more people to take ownership of the societies they live in and take a more hands-on approach to improving them.

“We receive incentives and rewards for so many things, such as shopping at a certain place, or flying a certain airline,” explained Camilo Ramada, co-founder of GEM with David Shields.

“Why then not offer incentives for the really important things, such as taking care of babies, helping to paint a school, working in a community garden, making food for the homeless, or cleaning-up neighbourhoods?”

Encouraging active citizenship among people in South Africa is one of Play Your Part’s key objectives and partnering and supporting initiatives such as GEM is part of the effort to do just that.

Volunteers can select one or more of the campaigns listed in the app’s database. Once the good deed is done, they receive a reward via the app, called a GEM.

These GEMs can be redeemed for a range of products such as airtime, data, pre-paid electricity or movie tickets.

Get involved

For more information on how to get involved in your community and to keep track of the activities in and around your area, visit GEM’s website or download the application.

Go out and take action, get actively involved in turning South Africa into a better place for all who call it home.