“Hermanus is facing a crisis, a crisis greater than water supply, poaching or a lack of tourists. It is the crisis of joblessness and poverty that exists in our communities, often hidden from sight, but impacting our shared environment. Joblessness leads to hopelessness, despair, loss of dignity, anger and often reactive violence and crime. We know that neither government nor corporates can solve this problem; the solution has to come from the informal economic sector where most new jobs will be created.”

These are the words of Dr Phillip Parsons, one of the directors of Hermanus Siyakha, which aims to assist the poor in obtaining small loans to improve their circumstances.

“This crisis presents all residents of the Overstrand region with an opportunity – an opportunity to be part of the solution and to create a beacon of hope that can spread to other towns and cities as we model a caring, integrated and problem-solving community.”

According to Parsons, Hermanus Siyakha (“Together we are building”) was launched in March this year with this vision in mind. “It seeks to provide small interest-free loans to emerging entrepreneurs in poor communities and support these individuals with dedicated mentoring provided by a team of experienced volunteers. The mentoring team has grown rapidly and the initial response to the appeal to lend to carefully evaluated projects was encouraging: to date some R82 000 has been loaned to 13 enterprises.

“However, after the initial enthusiastic response, contributions have largely dried up and the prospects that are currently seeking funding cannot be approved due to insufficient financial support. While new loan applications are being received on a regular basis, there is little point in assessing these if no new funds are forthcoming from the community.”

He said the dearth of loans to Hermanus Siyakha may be based on misunderstandings around the funding model that the organisation employs. “Rather than seeking large donations from corporates or wealthy individuals, the crowd-funding model that Hermanus Siyakha employs
relies on a large number of individuals contributing small loans (a minimum of R500 in our case) towards the achievement of an overall loan total. Readers may be aware that over R900 000 has been raised via crowdfunding to pay the legal costs of the Public Protector.”

These contributions are initially by way of a pledge, undertaken on the Hermanus Siyakha website. This pledge indicates that the contributor will make the contribution if, and only if, the total amount is reached via pledges from other contributors. Once the total has been achieved, then those who have pledged are asked to transfer their contribution by way of a loan to Hermanus Siyakha for the project that they have selected to support.

“In order for Hermanus Siyakha to achieve its aim of ‘Transforming communities by building relationships and growing businesses’ we need financial support from the broad community of the Overstrand. The challenge is to involve as many people as possible so that future loan applications can be funded. Won’t you go to the Hermanus Siyakha website and see the business projects that have been assessed and are applying for funding? You, too, can make a difference in the lives of individuals, and ultimately positively impact the broader community,” said Parsons.

For more information visit hermanussiyakha.org.za

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