Employees from seven Woolworths stores in the Nelspruit area as well as Mfula Mall in nearby Piet Retief have been part of a fundraising team that will get 65 local children, mostly with cerebral palsy up on their feet. Their effort is part of the Just Cause team-building initiative that brings Woolies employees together in different regions around South Africa and empowers them to make a difference in their communities. 

Employees from Woolworths’ Bushbuckridge, Hazyview, Nelspruit Riverside Mall, Nelspruit CBD, Nelspruit Crossings, Ilanga Nelspruit, Malelane and Mfula Mall teamed up with the Foods’ Selling team at Woolworths Head Office in Cape Town to raise funds to donate to local charity, Sukumani Dream.   The project aimed to raise enough money for the purchase of 40 wooden standing frames which could be given to children with disabilities, whose health and quality of life benefits greatly from them being able to spend some time each day on their feet.

Although they were fund-raising in undeniably tough times, the Woolies employees actually exceeded their target.  With matching funds from the Woolworths Trust, a total of R65 000 is now funding 65 standing frames.  The production of the standing frames also has important spin-offs benefits for local school, Kamagugu Inclusive School whose Special Needs woodwork learners have been commissioned to craft the stands.

Physiotherapist, Alison Walker and occupational therapists, Kabi Krige and Debbie Cresswell founded the non-profit organization, Sukumani Dream to better meet the needs of children with disabilities due to cerebral palsy and other neurological conditions.  “The children who really need these standing frames at home come from impoverished areas, and often their caregiver’s only income is their child’s disability grant which is about R1100 a month,” says Alison, “It is common that the caregiver is unable to work because their child needs 24 hour care and supervision. Without access to therapeutic equipment at home, these children, who can’t stand, walk or sometimes, even sit on their own are often left in incorrect positions.”

Standing, even for children who will most probably never walk, has numerous beneficial effects.  Weight bearing is necessary for the development of the hip joint, and for bone growth and density, and the upright position also helps to activate and strengthen anti-gravity muscles. Parents of children who do use standing frames at home report improved breathing and bowel activity.  They also often note improved socialisation and visual alertness, most likely because the elevated position brings the children into better contact with their environment and others.

“This was a very touching cause and we came together as a team to do our best for them,” says Woolworths Mpumalanga Regional Manager, Julie Wilson.

With a R10 000 kickstarter from the Woolworths Trust, the local Woolies fundraising team embarked on various fund-raising activities including Fun Walk and Soccer Matches where all stores entered teams with the entry fees going towards the project.  The participating stores held in-store raffles, cake sales and tuck shops, and a Casual Day helped to boost the coffers.

“What was important was keeping the momentum going across the participating stores,” Wilson adds, “Our store managers visited Kamagugu Inclusive School so we could inspire our teams to get involved and participate.  Certain employees, who are particularly passionate about community work stepped up to be drivers of the initiative by constantly discussing the project and updating fellow colleagues on progress.  We had a chart to map each store’s progress which motivated healthy competition.”

Just Cause is part of the Woolworths Employee Community Involvement Programme that encourages clusters of Woolies employees to identify and propose a community cause that they will support through fund-raising.  The Woolworths Trust will match funds raised up to R40 000 for a Just Cause.  Over the past year, R1.7 million has been raised by the Woolworths Just Cause initiative, which has been invested in 20 worthy causes across the country that were identified by employees from local Woolies’ stores.