Big business: Being part of the solution
Michael Porter, University Professor at Harvard Business School who was recently a speaker at TED, believes that big business can be instrumental in addressing social problems through "creating shared value". At a local level, Saratoga is a company that is addressing challenges within the community of Mandela Park in Khayelitsha - a place where the inhabitants are living below the breadline and education is a luxury.
Despite what may sound like a desperate situation, there is an amazing group of people who are part of the Khayelitsha Christian Academy, a small, informal school run by passionate volunteers who are giving back to their own community through education.
Saratoga is a company that values education as a way of providing practical support to its local technology industry. In addition to getting involved with initiatives like the Net Prophet Bursary, which helps send future innovators to university, it has also realised the importance of getting involved at the early childhood development stage where positive impact can be lifelong.
The growth and development in the first years of life can have a huge impact on every aspect of an individual's future. Every positive action will be compounded over time, just as with each negative effect can as well. For instance, if a child misses the developmental milestone of crawling, this has been shown to negatively impact learning to write in later developmental stages.
Laying the groundwork
Khayelitsha Christian Academy, headed up by Rev. Phumezo Masango and his wife Nocwaka, is attempting to address the very basic needs of the young children in their community, but this has proven difficult with the limited resources available to them. Saratoga chose to become involved after seeing the massive potential impact that could be made through practical and financial support, especially when coupled with the dedication and enthusiasm of those running the school.
Originally founded by the congregation of Christchurch Khayelitsha in 2011, the demand for their services has become so great it has doubled in numbers within one year, requiring that they look to outside support in order to grow.
Last year, Saratoga staff raised funds for stationery for 46 children. Then, in 2013, Saratoga as a company decided to set funds aside to specifically address the 'big picture' vision of the school, which involves an upgrade of the grounds and renovation of the building.
Anthony Robinson, Managing Director at Saratoga and directly involved with this initiative, says: "We're very excited about this project, not only because of the profound impact it can make in the lives of these children, but also on a higher level where we are helping solve a big problem in a local community where the scope of impact is huge." The employees at Saratoga are very enthusiastic about their involvement and hope to be an inspiration to other local companies.
Going the distance
In true tech-savvy fashion, Saratoga is currently exploring crowdfunding as a source of financial support through Thundafund to cover the cost of a much-needed upgrade of the grounds surrounding the school with its basic goal being a new gym set and potentially installing astroturf in the play area, which currently consists mainly of sand.
A member of Khayelitsha Academy tells us: "We have big dreams for both the school and volunteers who work here. The help we're receiving will go a long way in helping us achieve these dreams and we hope this example will inspire other companies out there to get involved with similar projects."
Visit the school Web site to find out more.