James House weathers the storm

Motivational speaker Kevan Wright and James House head of operations, Vivian Leibrandt.

While it has not been the easiest of years for James House Child and Youth Care Centre, it has still achieved much with its programmes, the organisation’s annual general meeting heard.

The meeting at the Riverside Boutique Hotel on Thursday September 27 was an entertaining affair that included entertainment, light snacks and motivational talks by guest speakers.

The non-profit was dealt a blow earlier this year when the provincial government withdrew funding for the STARS (Systematic Treatment of Adolescents with Challenging Behaviour in Residential Setting) programme, resulting in several retrenchments.

However, in his chairperson’s report, Andrew Kirkman said that while the loss of the programme was a reminder of the vulnerability of non-profits, the staff had gone “above and beyond” to meet the challenge and ensure James House continued to offer the best services.

Director Fabio Charles shared his sentiments and reminded guests that staff were the drivers of the organisation, and that without their “commitment, courage and dedication”, the programmes would not enjoy the success they did. “It is difficult to have to get out of bed, leave your families and go out to do your work in the middle of the night. But you do it. If you keep this up, the country will be a better place. Our staff are the most important asset James House has,” Mr Charles said.

Having gone through the sudden withdrawal of funding from the Department of Social Development, the focus going forward would be on ensuring financial stability in the next year, “not just for staff but the whole community”.

“If our funds dry up, we will not be able to do our work anymore. So with our new plan we want to ensure that what happened with the STARS programme doesn’t happen again,” Mr Charles said.

Programmes head Alene Smith said the centre’s remaining initiatives would be strengthened, even though they were reaping the desired results.

“In the past year, we impacted 13 000 people directly and 55 900 beneficiaries indirectly, and we want to expand even more. Our people loving doing their work, and we will not put an end to what we’ve been doing,” she said.

The keynote address was given by motivational speaker Kevan Wright, a survivor of pancreatic cancer who now coaches corporate teams and individuals.

A year ago, he was diagnosed with cancer on his return from a surfing trip to Bali. He said he had decided to see his diagnosis as an opportunity to learn, rather than an affliction.

Mr Wright said he had learnt five valuable lessons through his experience, namely, accountability, perspective, the importance of having the right attitude, the value of purpose and living for today and planning for tomorrow.

“I learnt that you should look for opportunities instead of looking at the faults. Within seconds of me being diagnosed, I knew I was not ready to check out. I also realised that money is just an enabler, and that health and family are the things that really matter. And always remember to have fun,” he said.

Another motivational speaker, Gordon Aeschliman, spoke about the importance of investing in NGOs. “The goal of commerce is to make money; the role of the NGO is to make love,” he said.

“The NGO places itself in the middle of the community’s pain and ailments and spreads its love from there. Our love is not about our loss; it’s about the privilege to love. James House tells us what it means to care about the people around us.”