Your Voices is an opportunity for readers of the Principal Voices site to explain their views on one of the key subjects at greater length.

The latest of these is by Corne Theunissen, 38, a founder member of the Greater Rustenburg Community Foundation based in Rustenburg, a mining town northwest of Johannesburg in South Africa.

Using money given by both charitable funds and the mining industry itself, the foundation helps tackle problems including rapid urbanization, drug use and AIDS.

"In the late 1990s, some locals involved in development work in and around Rustenburg started becoming concerned about social issues connected with the town. Development efforts were being funded by corporations, but it seemed like they were only touching the surface.

Rustenburg is a mining community, one of the biggest platinum producing centers in the world. Our community was facing by issues directly linked to a very fast growing mining area, including rapid urbanization, pressures on infrastructure and the environment, and social problems, among them unemployment, illiteracy, HIV and AIDS, substance abuse, prostitution and family violence.

The question we asked was, 'What happens after platinum?' Existing needs had to be addressed, but we also had to come up with ways to secure the future of the community when the mineral resources were depleted and the corporations moved on.

One answer was the US concept of community foundations, which operates in a particular geographic area and it can therefore respond to the needs of its own community.

A permanent endowed fund was established with the support of the Ford Foundation, guaranteeing funds for the future, while the Mott Foundation funded our set-up cost and operations for the first five years.

One thing we soon realized is that making grants isn't easy! So we started with research to try and identify the needs of the various communities, as well and the needs of organizations serving these communities.

Organizations were faced with a lack of funds, but also by a lack of leadership. This was particularly so as many charity leaders had moved into either politics or business after South Africa's democratization in 1994. We have tried to address this through an intensive skills development program, combined with leadership training.

With only the little funding we had to make direct grants, we would never have been able to make a real and lasting impact. However, through creative programs and very strong partnerships and collaborations we are currently improving the lives of thousands of local people.

We have established permanent invested funds towards helping issues connected to health, education, the environment, and women's and children's needs, among other things. We're now in our sixth year of making grants and have been able to support 120 organizations.

We have also worked with one of the biggest private foundations in South Africa, as well as Impala Mine, one of the country's largest mining companies.

My work as program manager for the foundation over the past eight years has deeply affected my career choices as well as my personal growth.

In terms of career I have moved from a want-to-be politician to a community developer, to a grant making professional and currently to a position where my business card does not read program manager anymore, but rather social activist.

This is also a reflection of my personal growth over these eight years. My own ambitions have developed into a deep passion for this community and what it offers to coming generations. Only if we can find true social, economic and environmental justice can we offer our children the hope of peace as the ultimate inheritance."

What do you think?


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Name: Ravinder Paul Singh
Location: Nairobi, Kenya

One of the mistakes that we normally make is to think that its not our responsibility, somebody else will take care of it.

We forget as a part of society and community we live in, we have some responsibilities towards tackling issues concerning the community. Having worked/consulted with many NGO's across Africa, I realized one of the important challenges that face them is economic sustainability and donor grants.

One has to be creative and look beyond the immediate funding from the donors to make a deep impact in lives of people. Creating partnerships with like minded people and organizations is one way. Another is to develop programs which involve local community and generates revenues.