Considering myself a Volunteer…


There is a certain amount of joy that comes from giving.  Whether it is financially or of your time and effort.  When we invest in someone and they succeed there is a deep feeling of satisfaction that comes over us.  On the other hand, when we invest and they do not succeed we get angry and hurt and it often ruins us from trying again.  I want to encourage these people to try again, and do it wisely.  The beauty of living in South Africa in a time such as this is we have plenty opportunity to engage and bring about positive change.  If every one of us saw the opportunity to be a community changer in some small way, we would definitely see a society that the world would look towards for guidance.

Working in We are Durban has given me plenty of opportunity to work with volunteers.  I have seen pitfalls and victories and I would like to share some guidance to make your volunteer experience beneficial for all parties involved; you, the beneficiaries and the organisation you partner with.

Before you engage do some soul searching.  Ask yourself the following questions and be honest with your answers;

  • Why do I want to volunteer? It may be that you want to give back to society, or you have some spare time to fill, you may be lonely and want to meet other people, you may think you are so fantastic at everything you do so you could solve the problems that everyone is having, or you are being forced to by work or school, there might be any number of reasons. Be aware that whatever your reason for volunteering is, it will come out in the quality of service you offer and the relationships you form there.
  • How much time do I have to give? This is important to know upfront otherwise you or someone is going be disappointed and struggle with you. Is it one hour a week, a morning, a month or is it full time, be clear.
  • What do you have to give? Everyone has talents and abilities. Sometime these are just what the organisation needs and sometimes they just need an extra responsible person around.  One of the best ways you can serve a need is by knowing what you have to offer up front and essentially telling the organisation you want to come in and offer this or that service and these will be the benefits of that.  In a way that will not drain the organisation and will not require the organisation to raise funds to cover you.
  • Am I able to be consistent? There is a reason you go into work every day, your employer needs a job done.  If you volunteer you will be given a task that needs to be done, if you are inconsistent or unreliable you will be given tasks that do not actually matter.  This will be demoralising and you will eventually stop.
  • What would I like to see changed in the world? We are all wired differently, some of us love children, some of us are angry with human trafficking or prostitution, some have the grace to bring some dignity to the homeless person and others wish drugs had a face so that they could punch it… there are so many issues that could be tackled. What does your heart bleed for? If I cannot post a picture of me doing this on social media would I still want to do it? Do this thing and it will make your work you do in that field so much sweeter, your victories greater and your asks of others way easier.
  • Am I a starter, a worker or a finisher? Most people are naturally one of these. If you realise what part in the process you best fit, you can suggest to the organisation that this is where you would best serve.  I know for me I like to start things, give a vision and a system and let someone else finish it.  It is hard for me to maintain my energy and focus to the end, but when it is complete I get very excited.

Volunteering should be an extension of who you are.  It should be natural and freeing and not something in which you have to study to fill a position.  If you are volunteering out of your capacity, you will find it difficult and a slog and it you will eventually quit. You are a solution to an organisation’s problem, you need to be true to who you are to fill their need.  Take the time to know you, before you try to fix someone else.

Written by: Linda Morrison


Let’s get Professional: Not just a NPO

On Friday, 18 August we held our 3rd NPO Conference.  This time it was entitled “Let’s get Professional: Not Just a NPO”.  The history behind this is the unfortunate excuse that so many NPO’s make when they fail to deliver their services, or reports in the expected time or to the expected standard; “But we are just a NPO”.  We believe that Durban NPO’s are so much more than that and are able to deliver excellence in their services and reporting and we wanted to equip them with some tools to make it easier.

About a year ago we were looking at We are Durban’s systems and processes and trying to streamline and systemise as much as possible.  We were looking into ways that our board members, volunteers and staff could take some of the workload off our Managing Director, in a way that maintained the standard.  After trying a few options, we discovered Trello. According to their webpage, “Trello is an easy, free, flexible and visual way to manage projects and organise anything.  Trusted by millions of people from around the world”, and we would have to agree.  Bradford Wills, of Fulfil Engineering, has spent hours mastering Trello and teaching people how to use it in their own workspaces and we were thrilled that he joined us to help the NPO’s gain a technical advantage.  It was so well received that the energy levels were at buzz status come tea break.

The excitement continued the rest of the day as Dr. Thea van der Westhuizen challenged the NPO leaders to get very clear on their proposals and requests when they send them off to potential donors.  Her years of experience in this field were of huge value to the organisations as she pushed them hard to find their truly unique point and name all the resources required to deliver their service.

These days come at a huge cost to our donors and we thank VUM and StyleEyes for backing the work we do with the NPO’s of Ethekwini.  We really appreciate your generosity that allows us the freedom to make the day memorable and fun for the leaders.  We also have to thank our speakers and many volunteers who take time out of their regular lives to serve the community of Durban – you are the “we” in We are Durban.

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our wonderful volunteers

our wonderful volunteers

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Mandela day ideas

For those who would like some ideas on what to do for Mandela Day, follow the link below.  These are all based at organisations we have worked with in the past… 

To love a heroin addict

I have been meeting with a person who is homeless and a heroin addict for the past 3 months, twice a week, every week.  The man is my cousin.  He is 28 years old and either sleeps on the streets or in a shelter when he can afford it.  My purpose in meeting with him is to write his story to try to find some real solutions to this problem our beautiful city is facing.

This is a real problem.  We only have about 34 people injecting heroin in Central Durban, but a large percentage of our homeless community are smoking it – either as heroin or woonga.  It is a problem.  The problem affects us deeply.  Even if we choose to ignore it, it will continue to be there.  Ignoring these people is so much of the problem.  They need love, and lots of it.  I asked my cousin to describe what it feels like to be high.  His answer shocked me.  I was expecting that it made him forget his problems, that it probably gave him some visions, took away the pain.  I never expected his true answer.  He said; “it feels like someone has placed a warm coal inside of you and you feel loved and accepted”. You see my cousin comes from a broken home, parents divorced when he was 5, mom battled cancer and died when he was 11, dad was not a factor and he was dumped from one family to the next.  I am not excusing his choices, but if this is a way he can feel loved, can we as society really blame him? Haven’t we all done crazy things just to feel loved?

Sadly, that sensation does not last.  Sadly, as you build a tolerance to the drug you reach a point where you no longer get that sensation and all you are doing is self-medicating to prevent withdrawal. Oh, and withdrawal is bad! Imagine the worst possible stomach bug but lasting three weeks with intense muscular pain.  Literally bile pouring out of you. And you feel abandoned and lonely and unloved.  And the drug is whispering to you, “all you need is a little shot and you will feel so much better, nobody will know.” I spoke to a guy yesterday who has been clean for 18 years and he said he still hears that voice every now and then.  Then you get the other side where they push the envelope a bit far and overdose.  We lost a 23 year old mom this last week, on Mahatma Gandhi Rd. Apparently they know when it has happened the minute they inject.  There is no high, just intense pain, heat and blackness.  If there is too much they don’t wake up.  A real waste of a life.

Many of these addicts are really functional.  You have probably been served by one at a restaurant and never even realised it. Inevitably they get greedy.  They need more drug and they will do anything to get it. So they end up stealing, and they lose their jobs.  This is where life becomes dangerous for them and society, this is where we need to engage and not disengage.

On the streets they have three choices to earn money to pay for their drugs.  The first is the hustle.  This usually goes on the line of “I am not a drug addict. I have landed on the streets due to some misfortune and need shelter money or money for food.” “Or I am selling this object to raise shelter money or support my baby”.  We have all heard the story. Sometimes we give to get rid of the person, sometimes out of guilt, sometimes out of religious obligation, and sometimes because we believe their story and genuinely want to help them. But the hustle works.  They earn between R100 and R1500 a day doing this, depending on the day and the season.  The second is the route many of the girl’s land up taking, prostitution.  Either online sales, manning a street corner or working a strip.  Almost all of them land up being used by the drug lords.  Handing over every cent made so that they can get their next fix or keep a roof over their head. The third option is crime. Muggings, shoplifting, and theft out of motor vehicles are the most common, but it lands them up in a cycle of going in and out of prison and mixing with worse and worse people.

What is the solution?  To be honest, I do not know.  What I do know is that these people are hugely vulnerable.  They need love and to be shown that people care. Not by giving them stuff, those things are likely to be sold to buy more drugs, but by engaging the individuals. Until they choose to make the decision for themselves that they no longer want that lifestyle there is no point in offering them a way out. If the choice is not theirs, they will return to the lifestyle the first opportunity they have.  If the choice is not truly theirs they will resent you for “helping”.  Only they can answer the question if they are ready to change.  They may have told you they are, but it really was another hustle, and they will return the minute the pain strikes.  On the streets they need just enough money to self-medicate.  They are okay to not sleep in a shelter, to go without food as long as they do not go into withdrawal.  But that is the base. If no one ever gives we are going to land up with a crime situation. It is such a precarious space.  You do not want to give because you are fuelling an addiction, but if you do not give where will they find the money for the heroin?  They will make sure they have it.  The beauty of the don’t give campaigns is that it has been effective.  The addicts have been forced to take less, but the minute they “hit a luck” they are at risk of overdosing.

Once the addict decides that he wants to give up he has a major problem.  If he doesn’t have a wealthy family that can pay for a fancy rehabilitation facility that offers detoxing there are not many options. Most addicts have burnt that bridge long ago. The government hospitals will not take them.  These people need constant support and attention in this space – they cannot do it on the street.  This situation is creating another barrier to them being healed.  I applaud the efforts of the Denis Hurley Centre and Hope 4 All in investigating and initiating efforts to start free facilities.  Please people, get behind them.  Our City needs these services.

I am busy writing my cousin’s full story and we hope that it will help pre-teens, teens, young adults and families make wise choices around drugs.  We hope that it could prevent even one person landing up in the same situation.  These are people who are filling a need to be loved with something that ends up destroying their potential to be loved.

Mandela Day Market

On Saturday, 16 July 2016, we at our offices in Windermere to celebrate Mandela Day.  We asked the community to get involved by either donating their good quality second hand clothes, or books, bake something delicious and donate that, volunteer time to sort, set up or sell on the day.  Huge piles of clothes were donated.  We had plenty of baked goods and fudge for those with a sweet tooth. There was coffee, bacon and egg rolls and homemade lemonade to keep people happy and full.  Twelve other regular market stalls were booked to sell their own wares on the day, and there was even a fun photobooth.  A raffle was held where there was a night stay in an executive suite at the Suncoast Towers, including breakfast and a R500 voucher for dinner sponsored by Tsogo Sun, which Bruce Jackson won, much to his delight.  The money raised from the day will be going towards a project we are working on with the municipality to supply a new pre-primary school facility for the children in the Dalton Heights area.  Just under R15,000.00 was raised.  A big thank you goes out to all who supported us on the day.

SACSC give back

On Thursday 2 June 2016, the KZN chapter of the South African Council of Shopping Centres met for their annual networking evening.  As they have done in the past they have asked their members to give something back to charity.  This year they chose to give stationery.  This stationery is currently being distributed to underprivileged schools and pre-primaries in and around Durban.  Thank you for your support and getting involved in making a difference in the lives of those less fortunate. Below is a list of what was collected.


Stationary donation
186 Large stationary packs
21 Small packs
78 college Excercise Books
15 A4 Exam pads
13 A4 counter books
22 A5 Notebooks
6 Reams of A4 paper
19 Small Notebooks
17 Boxes of crayons
18 Boxes of coloured pencils
5 Jumbo colouring-in books
20 Pritt glue sticks
72 Erazers
37 Pencil sharpeners
105 Rulers
277 Pencils
3 A5 exam pads
25 Hilighters
16 Permanent Markers
12 Packs Post-it flags
1 Pack fibre tipped pens
2 Boxes giant gem clips
4 Calculators
3 Boxes paper clips
3 Post it notes
4 Correction tape
1 Maths drawing insturments
2 A5 Flip files
1 A4 Flip file
15 A5 Excercise Books
13 A4 Manuscript Books
6 Scissors
1 Pack A4 Kraft covers
549 Pens
4 Boxes of staples

Night Shelter visitation

Last night (25 February 2016), we joined the Isinkwa SeTheku team in going out to the night shelters to visit with the residents.

Isinkwa SeTheku is a not-for-profit that operates to bring hope to the homeless of our city.  Every Thursday night they meet and divide into teams that go to various shelters and visit the guys on the streets.  They visit the best and the worst of shelters to take food and a listening ear to those in need.  They also do a potjie day once a month to feed the people living on the street.

I had the privilege of going to a very new shelter in Durban called Haven of Hope.  It has only been operating for about 5/6 months but has put some really good things in place that will make it a safe place for people in need to stay.  They have 2 stories – one for males and one for females. Everything is very clean and neat and they have very strict rules around hygiene of  the residents and cleanliness of the building.  Well done to the Family trust that has seen the need and done something about it!

If you are ever at a loss for something to do on a Thursday night, i would recommend joining the Isinkwa SeTheku team in visiting the less fortunate of our city.  They meet at the St Paul’s Anglican Church on Monty Naiker Street at 6:45pm.

Business Breakfast

6 November 2015 saw 70 business people from the Durban area come together in the Luthuli Hall (City Hall) to challenge mindsets around business and giving to the needy of our society.  A collaboration between Nation Builder, Grace aid and ourselves resulted in this business altering breakfast. Francios van Niekerk of the Mertech group was our main speaker. Francios story of how God helped him turn a bankrupt business in to a multimillion rand group of businesses is inspiring to say the least. We also had a panel of local business people, including Nick Nzama, Brad Wills and Leigh-Anne Aitken who added so much value as their stories are based in Durban.  Abonga Nkwelo was our brilliant MC and managed to keep things flowing incredibly well.  Breakfast was yummy and plentiful, thanks to Highway Function Hire.  A BIG thank you to eThekwini Municipality for the use of the Luthuli Hall.  It was a perfect venue and was a beautiful representation of Business, Government and the Social sector working together to see Durban reach its potential.

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Potjie Competition 2015

This Heritage Day on 24 September 2015, the annual We are Durban Potjie Competition was held in association with the Buyisithemba GD Community Development Organisation in KwaMashu, Section D.  The Competition was organized by We are Durban and participants were all volunteers, who graciously gave up their Public Holiday to join us in celebrating our Heritage together.  It was a beautiful sunny day and an incredible success, which we look forward to repeating each year!


We had 19 volunteer teams sign up to cook their favourite potjie recipes – even Buyisithemba entered a team and cooked a delicious range of traditional food.  Everyone brought their own ingredients and equipment, and had approximately 3 hours to cook their potjies.  A team of judges, including We are Durban board members and the local Ward Councillors, tasted a portion from each team and decided on the top 3 winning teams.  Teams were given extra points if they catered to the heritage theme – and we had beautiful dishes being served up!


Once all our potjies were cooked, the food was shared out with members of the local community who are part of Buyisithemba’s feeding scheme. We fed about 250 people on the day, with plenty food left over for second helpings.  We had plenty of extra pap and rice, as well as extra chicken curry, thanks to generous donations given to We are Durban specifically for the event.


Prizes were given to teams in 1st, 2nd and 3rd place for the best potjies, and we were privileged to be able to give out such beautiful prizes – engraved wooden spoons, brand new cookbooks donated by Bargain Books in Westwood, lovely embroidered aprons donated by one of our amazing volunteers, and a variety of lovely donated goodies.


Buyisithemba were such incredible hosts on the day, treating all of us to entertainment, tea and snacks while we cooked, and a wonderful programme including an introduction to Buyisithemba and the work that they do in the community.  We were honoured to have the local Ward Councilors joined us for the day, as well as UKZN and some of the local youth who entertained us with a traditional dance. Buyisithemba also organized a mobile clinic to be present on the day for any elderly members of the community who required medical care.


Thank you so much to our amazing volunteers, sponsors and to Buyisithemba for joining together to make this event a huge success!  It was a truly fantastic way to build relationships with a Non-Profit that are doing phenomenal work in their community.

Loving the Lost Daughters

We are Durban marked Women’s Month this August by partnering with Red Light Anti-Human Trafficking and their Night Lights team.  This event was exclusively a Christian event, due to Red Light being a Christian organization.


On 27 August 2015, a group of about 30 volunteers from local churches spent the evening ministering to the women at risk in Windermere, Durban, with the Night Lights team providing training and guidance as to what to expect and how to minister to these women.


We went out into the streets in small groups, each with a trained Red Light team leader, and simply spent time chatting to the local women at risk, sharing a hot chocolate, and also lovely pamper goodies that were kindly donated by Unilever.   As the Night Lights team regularly minister to these women, they know many of them and have established relationships in an incredible way.  We were able to have in-depth conversations with many of the women, often getting an opportunity to pray for them.  Mostly, we just enjoyed each other’s company – it was amazing to see how naturally conversation flowed and how eager the ladies were to chat and enjoy the break in their evening.


Our volunteers shared how they were amazed by how much joy they experienced, but of course how sad these ladies’ stories are and how so many of them feel they have no other option for supporting themselves and their families financially.  Our event ended off with many volunteers signing up to partner with Red Light in their ongoing ministry.


We would like to extend a huge thank you to our volunteers and to Red Light for making this event possible, and for giving up their time to love those who are so often forgotten.