Shawn Theunissen – Head of Property Point and Head of CSR at Growthpoint Properties.
When Property Point, a Growthpoint Properties initiative, challenged small businesses to make a positive difference in the lives of cerebral palsy learners, it had no idea just how massive the impact would be.
A simple lesson in the importance of businesses giving back to their communities snowballed into R500,000 worth of renovations for the Pretoria School for Cerebral Palsy Learners.
The project began when Growthpoint facilities manager Pieter Kirkhoff became aware of a need for maintenance work at the school. He took this need to the Growthpoint CSI team and Property Point to see if there was anything they could do to help. Both took up the challenge.
It soon became clear that this opportunity to improve the school could have positive impacts well beyond making a few repairs.
Shawn Theunissen, Head of CSR at Growthpoint Properties and Head of Property Point, explains that as a leading enterprise development programme, Property Point nurtures small business and entrepreneurs to become sustainable, relevant and competitive companies.
“We saw this as an opportunity to show emerging businesses the importance of giving back to the community,” says Theunissen. “Growthpoint is passionate about our positive social, environmental and economic impacts. We believe this is simply good business. This project was a chance to create a platform for the businesses in the Property Point programme to do the same.”
The response from the small businesses was exciting. Twelve small businesses stepped forward to participate. Some contributed to the school’s renovations with their time, skills and resources to paint, landscape, waterproof, as well as do electrical work, plumbing and maintenance. Others provided funds towards additional items the school needs. They were supported with a R150,000 donation from Growthpoint as well as R50,000 of paint donated by Plascon.
Commenting on the impacts of this initiative, Norbert Sasse, CEO of Growthpoint Properties, says: “It is inspiring to see the businesses on the Property Point programme showing real leadership. These small businesses are striving to be shining examples of good corporate citizenship. Property Point encourages the best practice in all areas of business. With these principles at their core, these small businesses are set to grow and thrive, and have great positive impacts. By working together and all doing our bit, businesses big and small, can be a positive force for change in South Africa.”
Hannes Steyn of Property Point, who drove and coordinated this project for Property Point, says the children at the Pretoria School for Cerebral Palsy Learners were the focus of project.
“We really wanted to do something for the children and quickly realised we would have the biggest impact by upgrading the hostels into modern, comfortable, welcoming and functional environments,” says Steyn.
To do this, they repaired leaks and damp, replaced floor tiling and repainted walls and ceilings. Roofs were waterproofed and painted, too. They also improved the plumbing, and ensured the hostels’ electrical work complies with all the necessary safety standards. The gardens at the school were also landscaped to support a beautiful setting.
“The Property Point businesses and their partners have been passionate and generous with their time, money, expertise and labour. We had no idea the businesses would come on board the way they did. We are delighted with the response,” says Steyn.
Businesses that joined in the project are: Plascon Kanzai Paint, BLK Construction, Carrons Corporate Maintenance, GCF Projects, Good Future, Integrico, In Coatings, Invelaphi, NRP Properties, NOPA Cleaning, Sandwind Coatings, Thatego Landscapes, Zehlile Engineering and Growthpoint.
Some of the businesses spent nearly a month on site at the school, doing their bit towards revamping the hostels. Others have committed to return to the school and volunteer their services, like the landscaping business that will ensure the school’s gardens are tended to monthly.
“It is incredible to see small businesses that really understand that projects like this are about giving back in a real way and not marketing your business. At Property Point, we teach entrepreneurs that everyone has something to give. We all need to go out and give what we can. Giving is empowering.”
In this case, the project is not only creating a positive, dignified environment for the learners to enjoy and thrive in, it also supports the teachers and staff at the school, with positive knock-on effects for the families and the community.
In fact, the project has proved so successful that Property Point plans to make its ‘giving back’ project an annual event in its programme. It will also be included as part of Growthpoint’s commitment to give 6,700 hours of staff volunteerism over a year, for Nelson Mandela International Day.
“It is exciting to see small enterprises that pay it forward. These companies are examples of good business in the country. Property Point is humbled to give them a platform for positive change,” says Theunissen.