Men’s Shed aims to make a difference

Hout Bay Men’s Shed members, from left, Jerry Rogers, Kobus Stander, Richard Butterfield, president Sylvester Gasana, Jürgen Duncker, Kobus Jacobs, John Barbe, Marcello Fiasconara, Tetile Sgwentu and Henry Steyn.

The retired and semi-retired businessmen who are part of Hout Bay’s Men’s Shed say they all have one goal – to give back to the community and make a difference.

The non-profit held its first event in December when its members joined Imizamo Yethu residents in a clean-up of the township.

Men’s Shed is a global movement of over 2 500 members. The Hout Bay one, according to its president, Sylvester Gasana, is the first in the Western Cape.

Mr Gasana, who worked in the Rwandan government while lecturing in the officer’s military academy before coming to South Africa and working in business and consulting assignments, says he started talking about the initiative pre-Covid with Henry Steyn, who is the company secretary for a storage company.

The first step was to formalise the group by registering it with the Department of Social Development.

Most of the 15-member group are over 70 (the youngest is 62) and they are generally retired. Their work experience spans academia, architecture, construction, finance and administration, NGOs, electronics merchandising, the chemical industry and more. And their interests include gardening, Bridge, athletics and boating.

The men meet at the Hout Bay Yacht Club, but one of the members, Richard Butterfield, says a future plan is to have their own place. “Where a man who has time on his hands can go to make things, use tools, relax, make friends and pass on their knowledge to other like-minded men,” he says.

Mr Steyn says the Men’s Shed offers a safe and happy environment where skilled and unskilled men can pursue hobbies, pastimes and interests, learn new skills and pass on old ones, share cultures and traditions, learn about their health and well-being and be of service to the community.

The members hope to mentor the youth and help them with job shadowing and basic skills, including driving, opening a bank account and understanding tax.

Marcello Fiasconaro, a retired consultant for a sports shoe company and a former athlete who set a world record in the 800m in 1973, wants to identify talented runners and mentor them to possibly follow in his footsteps.

Tetile Sgwentu has been part of several non-profits that benefit children, and he has many contacts in Imizamo Yethu. He believes the Men’s Shed has key role to play in bringing communities in Hout Bay together to work for the common good.

“We are the rope that ties the three Hout Bay communities together to form one unit. We can mentor young men, guide them in their career.”

Hout Bay’s Men Shed will next meet at Hout Bay Yacht Club on Monday May 15, at 10am. To attend, email Sylvester Gasana at zamsaweb2020@gmail.com or call 074 513 3514.

The Hout Bay Men Shed held its first event in December when its members joined Imizamo Yethu residents in a clean-up of the township