When we think we are doing good.


“Just R5, 00” sounds simple and like a drop in the proverbial bucket when your hand glides through your car window at the intersection. There is truth to that statement, it is just R5, 00. It is a small amount, not turning the vulnerable boy at the streetlight into a wealth machine. Just….. Only….. R5, 00. The problem here is that we are almost so auto-piloted (if there is such a word) when driving through our city streets, that we don’t give our own actions of giving “just R5, 00” a second thought.


Your R5, 00 is probably the reason why that boy is still there. It will also be the same reason that boy will be there tomorrow, expecting your R5, 00 again. Trouble with this whole scenario is that we think we are doing good by handing over this silver piece of “bettership", when in fact we are keeping people dependent with our good intentions. Bleeding hearts. Being involved in the NPO sector for quite some time, I became somewhat immune to the heartache and pain our vulnerable communities are experiencing on a daily basis and it prompted me to start thinking anew on what it means to “do good”. Through the years I also realised that as NPO’s we also had to have a serious revision or introspection to why we are indeed rendering services to our communities. Do we render services to our communities because that’s what we think they want? Or are we tuned in to their needs enough to know what they need? Are we living our calling because we are moved by our stance of injustice, or our voices of solidarity with the poor, or is it the philosophy of Ubuntu that moves us to do so?


At PEN we have started some time ago to look at our beneficiaries in a new way. In a manner where we do not give them what they want ( I know it sounds silly), but rather sit with them, journey with them to determine exactly what it is they need and according to that, draw up an individual development plan to make sure they enter our cycle of services, but also exit from PEN at some point. Surely it’s no use for someone to keep brooding in the comfort zone we might create for them, but also to do the right thing and to be the mother hen who kicks out the little chick when the time is right. We want to move our beneficiaries from dependency to dignity and interdependency. Our philosophy is one that speaks of hope, self-sustainability and being able to give them an opportunity to contribute and give back when they are in a position to do so.


Often when speaking to donors, corporate funders and supporters, I loosely use the term “dreaming of a time when there is no PEN anymore” and you can see the astonishment on their faces. Jip, there is truth to that statement. If we truly are working on our philosophy to move people to interdependency then we should be growing communities who truly reach out to one another to care, support and share resources, wisdom and knowledge. When that day come, will PEN be obsolete? Will our vision to ignite change, heal communities and nurture individuals be tangible? All interesting questions.


Reality here is that we are still far way off and it’s a hard pill to swallow, realising that we as PEN can and will not be the superhero in this tale of poverty and hardship. What we CAN offer however is a crutch, a helping hand, a supportive ear and the ability to help dream of what CAN be. Helping in the NPO/Donor context is mostly about resources, money and donations in kind, which is super fantastic by the way, however, we need people to talk to us. Supporters and funders need to understand the NPO they invest in. We need businesses to help us with things that we aren’t good at, like insurance, tax, finances and in return PEN can offer the role as a trusted advisor on how to be good citizens when planning your CSI (Corporate Social Responsibility) initiatives and affecting a lasting impact. Surely when we are thinking of investing our own money, we do research, make the right choices and look for the best return on investment. Why aren’t some supporters practicing this same principle when it comes to finding and supporting the right NPO? PEN as a NPO is in a position to give you that return on your investment. We are good in what we do, so are you in what you do. It’s just stupid to think we are not taking hands. Give us a call and let’s have this critical conversation when you think about investing in the right NPO.