It was the 18th of March 2015, my 26th Birthday, I sat in the bank with two friends. From an outsiders perspective this probably looked like an unlikely friendship. Two Xhosa men and a young white girl. We were from different worlds but our mutual love for two things brought us together: Our love for God and our love for our community. This was probably the only time I was excited to be at the bank, only because what we were doing hopefully marked a significant moment for the future of our community.

We were opening a bank account for our organization, myDunoon. An organization formed as an invitation for our community to unite, to step off the sidelines and actually become the solution to the many problems that confront us every day.

Now 8 months later we are wrapping things up for this year, and what a year it has been! Highlights, low-lights and lots in between.

When the rubber hits the road…

We soon found out that turning an idea into reality takes plenty of hard work. We have had fun but we certainly have learnt lessons along the way. In our context it can often feel as if we are fighting an uphill battle. Passivity kills passion and just accepting the “norm” has become part of the culture for those living in Du Noon. Yet we cling to the hope that we believe God has given us and we start small, shuffling up the hill, doing what we can.

This year was about laying the ground work. We knew our end goal: a united and proactive community… but how on earth do we get there? None of us had any experience but we were prepared to learn on the job.

It is the beginning stages of an idea that require the most sacrifice and it certainly began to test how much hope we actually had in our dream. We were the ones who had to make the sacrifice to lay the groundwork. Our time, our skills, our resources… we needed to look at what we had to offer.

What we did have to work with was a bunch of incredibly talented community members that didn’t often get to showcase their talent in a positive context. So that’s where we started. We started by setting up events in our park and creating a platform for performers. We invited everyone in our community and used these times to bring people together, not for a political agenda but just to celebrate the good in Du Noon.

I would say one of the hardest trials for our team this year is learning the reality of administration. I personally am not gifted in this area, yet I soon learnt that administration is a very large component of any successful organization. So we pulled up our sleeves and got stuck in. Success was ours when we not only registered as an official Nonprofit with the department of Social Development but when we were recognized as a Public Benefit Organization by SARS. Systems some of us never knew existed before this year.

We also realized to see our overall objectives met we would need to be strategic in achieving certain goals. The first goal was the one we concentrated on the most this year. Spreading the word: Building a brand that represented community pride, we had events, made t-shirts and generally just used our own network’s to share our enthusiasm for change. This naturally led to us in seeing our second goal take form. This goal was to Host the network within Du Noon. Already forming partnerships with certain city departments, our local ward counselor, some business’s and many other non-profits this year have helped facilitate events, meetings and projects that served our community.

Next year we will focus on building this network. Formalizing networks we will open communication channels insuring that we are all working together as much as possible. It has been an eye opener to see the lack of communication and collaboration between even the city departments… We realized that no one is actually taking a step back to see how the entire system is functioning and were it may be flawed.

Sometimes just a small change like linking the right organisations can lead to far greater results. So together with social development we are super excited to host a brain storming seminar early next year with key members from Du Noon organisations. Here we will see how together we can run things more effectively.

Although we try focus on one of the specific goals to make things more achievable we don’t forget the rest. Our last two goals are to Inspiring Innovation and to see Physical Evidence of change. In both of these we have already seen some results.

We managed to take a group of students away for the weekend for our Inspire camp. Read here to see how this experience not only impacted lives but led to 4 students becoming finalists in an Innovation competition. This finalist group has been a highlight for us, showing true myDunoon spirit they are running their own project called Career Explore. Read here to find out how this group of students is doing their part to see our youth inspired.

Our Mandela day event saw us take to the streets to clean up. We have also slowly transformed our office circle. Living Green Walls have generously helped us put up and pilot a vertical garden project so our neighbors are now growing their own vegetables. The last few months we have had fun making fences, painting walls and planting gardens and hope to continue to upgrade next year, branching slowly into other parts of Du Noon.

Yet changing the physical environment of our township is a tricky process, if you want to read more about this, read about it here.

Onward’s and Upwards…

This year has been great but what some people are not aware of is that we actually have had no regular funding and are currently all volunteers. We are realizing with the rate of growth and responsibility we have been given already in our community we will need to make adjustments next year. The first big adjustment is to try get at least two people employed, the second is to start planning bigger more specific (and costly) projects.

For both of these we need funding, if you or your business would like to contribute and can commit to a monthly amount please get in contact with us.

People always ask if we have approached corporate’s, rest assured we are jumping through all the hoops we can handle (although getting two people employed would help move this process along quicker :)). Unfortunately these process take time and are often complex… we are not giving up but we are still needing all the help we can get to get us through the interim period.

As I already mentioned, at the end of the day just bunch of “average” inexperienced people, figuring it out as we go along… At times I feel like I want to hide this, but then I realize this is actually what we are about. We want to show our people that actually us “normal” people can with enough patience, perseverance and passion make a big difference. So despite our weaknesses and the failures we take a deep breathe, pat ourselves on the back focus on the great things we have accomplished and brace our self for 2016!

A Big and sincere thank you to all of you that through encouragement, time and money have become part of the myDunoon family. #UbuntuNgoku

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