Sunday, January 31, 2010

Advice Office Wins Top Award

- Carol Campbell -

Prince Albert’s Advice Office (PAAK) was named the most effective Local Development Agency in the Western, Eastern and Northern Cape at the Social Change Assistance Trust’s (SCAT) 25th Anniversary celebration in Cape Town in November.

SCAT is a Cape Town-based funding organisation that channels money, mostly from overseas donors, to grassroots projects.

Margy Jaftha, the human resource director of the PA Advice Office’s newly formed Section 21 company, accepted a cheque of R20 000 for the people of the town. “It was just hard work and passion, that got us here,” said the elated Jaftha.

Jaftha is right. Committed leadership and dedicated workers have turned the small Advice Office, formed in 1991 with two volunteers, into a thriving business that has created work for 83 people.

At the awards ceremony a spokesman for SCAT said the PA Advice office was an example the rest of the country could emulate. “These people (the PA Advice Office team) do not have more resources than anyone else, they are no different yet through good management and a committed team they are achieving remarkable results.”

The PA Advice Office was intended to ensure food security for the very poor and to give labourers, working on the farms around the town, legal advice. The initiative now runs or is involved in 11 projects, including a community garden on the emerging farm, Treintjiesrivier, a print shop, HIV/Aids home-based care, a nursery school for farm children in the Weltevrede Valley, legal assistance, a youth development initiative – to name a few.

It partners with government departments like Social Development and Health and the Central Karoo District Municipality to ensure people in desperate need don’t slip, unhelped, through the system. It runs on funding from private donors (through SCAT, Lotto, the Office of the Consumer Protector, the National Development Agency) and government. Each project has its own bank account that is administered by a clerk at the Advice Office and which is audited annually.

“We have tight controls and this gives our funders confidence,” says Jaftha. The move to a Section 21 company was a natural next-step for the former non-profit organisation. Political interference was a potential threat to its sustainability and the leadership opted to form a company to protect the staff and ensure the impartiality of the operation.

The Advice Office owns four vehicles and plans are afoot for it to eventually finance the purchase of its own building. It currently operates from a rented house.

“Good leadership and hard, hard work has been the secret of our success,” said Jaftha.

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