CHAIRPERSON’S REPORT FOR EMPILWENI AGM 2016
I took over as Chairperson from Sandy Prosalendis on 17 March 2016, so she was chairperson through most of the 2015/2016 financial year. It was a very difficult year for Empilweni. Our Director, Mhongwe, left at the end of March 2015 and we could not afford to replace her. We are very grateful to Sandy for taking over a lot of the Director’s responsibilities for the remainder of the year and up until very recently, and to the staff, students and Stephen for taking over the rest, on top of their existing work.
The full Board met twice during the year, in addition to the AGM, and there were three special Board meetings, mainly in response to the financial crisis which occurred when funding applications to two former major donors were unsuccessful. We had to consider closing Empilweni, but then we managed to continue by curtailing activities and cutting costs drastically. We terminated our satellite service in Mfuleni, and we kept one social worker and one auxiliary social worker post vacant and reduced the sessions of the clinical psychologist supervisor. We sold one of our cars. Sadly, staff salaries were also affected because we could not afford to pay full salaries for several months. Although we have now paid the staff back the deficit, we had to make another difficult decision not to return all salaries to their former level. The Board and I wish to express our admiration and appreciation for the way in which the staff continued to provide a dedicated service throughout what was a very stressful time for them
At the beginning of 2016 we requested an urgent meeting with the Department of Social Development to discuss ways in which they might be able to assist us. We are very grateful to Charles Jordan, the Chief Director, and his staff for the sympathetic hearing they gave us. He was willing to consider funding us under a different programme so that funds could be allocated in a way which would meet our needs better, and we were encouraged to apply for bail out funding, which has just recently been granted
With our backs to the wall, we decided to use the little money we had left to appoint a part time Director to fundraise for us. We also terminated our contract with our accounting company, and have saved money by appointing a part time bookkeeper instead. To add to our woes, our remaining car broke down recently and was irreparable, and we haven’t been able to replace it, so we have been without transport for a few months. This has a negative impact on our work with many clients, for whom home visits and school visits are essential
Regarding personnel, one of our auxiliary social workers, Nwabisa, resigned during the year, and about the same time we welcomed Thembela back into a social work post – she had been with us before. As usual we have had a number of auxiliary social work students from local Universities and Colleges doing their practical work with us, but we also had a Canadian student, Stephen McIsaac, who is studying for his doctorate in Anthropology. One of our Board members, Lulu Mazamisa, resigned earlier in the year, and Sandy Prosalendis, our former Chairperson, resigned from the Board altogether as of the end of last month. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all our staff and all our Board members for their dedicated and loyal service to Empilweni throughout what has probably been the most difficult time since we opened in 1994. It is this dedication and loyalty which makes Empilweni a very special organisation
Last but not least I would like to thank our donors, large and small, for their support in the 2015/2016 year without which Empilweni could not continue to offer its unique and valuable service to the children and families of Khayelitsha. Special thanks is due to our major funder and partner, the Department of Social Development. And in closing, I would like also to show appreciation for the support we receive from the local community – from our clients and their families, from our partner NGOs, and from the various service providers we depend upon. The details of donors will be provided later on in this meeting.
Thank you for coming today and showing your support for Empilweni. Let us hope that the coming year is a better one.