Building a house is back-breaking word, but doing it yourself fosters a sense of pride and accomplishment – even more so when you’re building for someone who has great need of it.
That was the outcome of a week’s work by employees of the Mercedes-Benz group of companies, who got together in the baking heat this week to build two houses in Orange Farm, south of Johannesburg.
The Mercedes-Benz group of companies (Mercedes-Benz South Africa, Mercedes-Benz Financial Services South Africa and Daimler Fleet Management) has a well-known track record for its Corporate Social Investment (CSI) programme, of which a relatively new element is Employee Volunteerism. Employee engagement is a part of our culture – we want to see and be a part of change, and help make a positive difference in people’s lives.
To this end, 120 employees, in collaboration with Habitat For Humanity South Africa (HFHSA), went to work and made the seeming miracle a resounding success due to staff and community involvement. From 14-18 November, the employees built the houses together from the ground up, tossing bricks, making ‘dagha’ (mortar), building scaffolding, installing windows, doors and roofs, and plastering and painting in five days.
Orange Farm, situated approximately an hour south of Johannesburg, started as an informal settlement in 1988 and later was formally established in 1990, when residents were given ownership of the land. According to 2002 statistics, there are approximately 957 000 people living in Orange Farm.
Apart from both low-cost and permanent houses, the community has a modern library, paved roads, four clinics, an information centre with internet access, a multi-purpose community centre, and a police station. The community also has local government offices representing the departments of Health, Social Development, Public Transport, Housing, and Home Affairs.
It’s the third year that the Mercedes-Benz group of companies has become involved in the project, providing R810 000 to the community through nine houses built over this period as part of the community-run programme.
“You, as Mercedes-Benz, physically help us build the houses as part of your social development initiatives,” says Trevor Molefe, Gauteng regional manager for HFHSA. “But over and above that, you are creating employment within the community, because most of the people working in the project are beneficiaries and community members who have been trained in construction skills and are now able to put these into use.”
The two most recent houses built were handed over to Anna Mashiane and Florence Mkhize, and their families. They were selected according to strict HFHSA criteria, based on financial need and willingness to partner with their community group and HFHSA. They also contributed ‘sweat equity’ on other houses within the community before qualifying for their own house.
Now Anna, Florence and their children will finally have brick and mortar homes, providing both with more secure homes than they currently have. “I am so happy right now and my wish will finally come true,” says Florence.
Nobuzwe Mangcu, MBSA Executive Director and Divisional Manager: Group Corporate Affairs, says: “The Mercedes-Benz group of companies in South Africa is proud of its positive contribution towards community development and its contribution to the Orange Farm community. Shelter is a basic need and, through this life-changing project, we are able to provide some light to the lives of these families.
‘Taking part in this project, you are not only building a house,” says Trevor. “You are building a home, a community, and hope for the future.”
“Thank you, Habitat for Humanity, Mercedes-Benz and my neighbours in the community of Stretford Extension 10,” says Anna. “My children and I will now find peace,” she concludes.