The staff at the Catholic Welfare and Development (CWD) in Green Point have for the last time proved that their hearts have always been in the right place.
Faced with retrenchments and not knowing what the future holds for them, the NGO’s staff members have volunteered their time to ensure that that they continue to improve the lives of those in need this Christmas, through their Buckets of Love campaign.
The campaign involves filling buckets with basic food items to distribute to disadvantaged families across the city. CWD was founded in 1970 with the aim of lifting people out of poverty through development work.
Unfortunately, staff members were issued with retrenchment letters on November 16 and CWD will be closing its doors on January 31 due to a lack of funds.
Interim director of the NGO, Walter Tarr, said he was brought in as an interim director to see if the NGO could be saved.
He said they had run the Buckets of Love campaign for many years and staff were determined to run it for one last time.
“The staff here wanted to end on a positive note and do what the NGO is known for – give to the disadvantaged.”
He said everyone went all out to try and get the donors involved.
He said this was testament to their calibre of staff because retrenchment was a painful process and despite that, they still wanted to change lives.
He said initially they wanted to reach the target that they had in the previous years, but because they did not have that reach anymore, they aimed to collect 2 000 buckets. However, they’ve managed to collect at least 3 000 buckets so far.
Mr Tarr said the organisation had done phenomenal work over the years.
“We’ve not only done what we’re currently doing but we have birthed a number of other organisations. There are crèches that fall under our educare programmes where kids are being cared for in the early stages and we go there and see these kids and realise it’s something to look back on,” he said.
Mr Tarr said he was proud of the work that the organisation had done, particularly their trauma and healing services, skills development and old age programmes which had given back to the communities.
“We’ve not only been a handout in terms of goods, but we’ve been a facility to develop skill sets that allow people to go out to make a change not only in their lives but to other people’s lives as well,” he said.
Touching on challenges the organisation has faced, Mr Tarr said running an NGO was not a walk in the park.
He said the organisation had had years of expansion and years of contraction. “Running an NGO is exactly like running any other business. You need enough income to cover the costs, enough income to be able to carry out the actual work and worry about same pitfalls a company has to worry about,” he said.
One staff member who has been working for the NGO for the past 10 years, Julia Oduol, said: “I’m okay now. This means new beginnings for me. Initially, I was sad to come to terms with this but I’m proud of the legacy and the footprint the CWD is leaving.”
Responding to the closure of the CWD, in a statement released on December 3, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Cape Town, Archbishop Stephen Brislin, stated that it was towards the end of 2017 that he began to receive information indicating that CWD was in financial difficulty.
“After trying for some time to get the Board to recognise the urgency and seriousness of the situation, eventually, it has become clear that CWD’s financial position is very much worse than we could have imagined,” he said.
Mr Brislin said in September this year, the director of CWD Kevin Roussel, was placed on suspension by the Board pending a disciplinary enquiry into charges of gross misconduct and insubordination. Subsequently, Mr Roussel chose to resign. Three other members of the management also resigned.
It also came to light that the board itself was unconstitutional as the terms of office of some members had expired. After consultation with the remaining board members, new members were appointed. The board then appointed an interim director to oversee the necessary actions that have had to be taken.
“In the light of the information now available, the board had to take the difficult and distressing, but necessary, decision to cease operations and to retrench all staff in a procedural way. The Archdiocese has loaned CWD a significant amount of money, mostly to cover the salaries of almost 50 staff members for three months and to underwrite the retrenchment packages,” he said.
Touching on the staff members who volunteered to be part of this year’s Bucket of Love campaign, he said: “Their generosity and selflessness is indicative of the majority of staff members who have worked at CWD over the past 48 years. I want to thank them and the donors who have given so generously to the Buckets of Love. This campaign will be the last of CWD for the foreseeable future.”