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Sustainable giving: training company sets new model for Corporate Social Investment

24 August 2009

Charities and non-governmental organisations have been hard hit by the economic crisis with some closing their doors and others cutting back help to the neediest members of society – however, one South African training organisation has devised a new concept to give in a way that brings long term benefits to the organisation.

Liza van Wyk, CEO of national training organisations AstroTech and BizTech said: “We donate food from our conference centre to CHOC (children with cancer) and for two years have been a generous donor to Rally to Read but we wanted to find a way to give further charitable donations in a way that created impact and helped strengthen an organisation especially with the present bad economic situation.
“We became particularly concerned by news reports showing that more than 13 million citizens are receiving social assistance benefits – what this means is that there is increasing poverty. Social Development, Minister Edna Molewa also said that her department will register an additional 200 000 children under 15 years by the end of August 2009 and the department increased the social relief budget from R124 million to R624 million.

“No one likes to live on charity, so we began looking around for organisations that teach marketable skills to young people.

“We selected Sparrow Schools in Johannesburg because of their excellent track record of vocational training which includes giving job prospects to those with learning difficulties. A third of the children who attend their school are also orphans so the challenge from AstroTech and BizTech was to give to them in a way that would strengthen administrative capacity and help them to become better at fund-raising and developing the sort of educational modules that would see the school prosper. It has an R12m annual bill of which only a very small proportion comes from fees, therefore they need staff with excellent business acumen.”

AstroTech encouraged Sparrow to select courses from it – mostly business training for executive and management staff and also its business support sister organisation, BizTech. Five courses to the value of R60 000 were selected for senior Sparrow staff including high school and vocational skills training centre principal Reg Taylor and primary school head, Rita Pretorius, courses selected include Mastering Leadership & Management Skills, Labour Relations and Labour Law, and Great Organisational Skills: Organise yourself to Success.

“AstroTech and BizTech would like to encourage more organisations to give practical skills transfer to organisations in need. It is critical that we boost employment and start fighting poverty more effectively,” Van Wyk said.

Bev Booker, Operations manager for Sparrow Schools said, “By attending the training provided our senior staff will be better equipped to perform their delegated tasks efficiently and within given time frames. They will also be empowered to deal with staff issues confidently and assertively. Managers are then better equipped to deal with the educators who will feel more confident in dealing with the learners. This affords a secure learning environment.

“We can see from our young people who attend our schools, many of whom come from very poor families, the importance of practical skills that lead to work. The assistance AstroTech and BizTech are providing enables us to improve our staff skills and that can only lead to a better quality of education for our young people.”

Brief synopsis on Sparrow Schools and the work it does:
Sparrow Schools was established in 1989, catering for up to 600 underprivileged young people aged seven to 19. Many of its pupils come from difficult circumstances. The schools focus on comprehensive development training and vocational skills to ensure that students have the essential skills necessary to find a job. Skills include creative design, technology and computer science, carpentry, welding, motor mechanics, clothing production and catering.

Sparrow Schools rely heavily on donations and the support of companies. The annual running costs for the schools - Foundation School, Sparrow Combined and the Vocational Skills Development Training Centres – amount to R12 million.


Liza van Wyk, CEO ASTROTECH & BIZTECH 011 582 3200 or 082 466 8975 or

Sparrow Schools contacts:
Bev Booker, Operations Manager or Allison Gallo, Fund Development and Resource Mobilization (011) 673-4410 083 387 4882
Lynette Leibach Fundraising Manager (011) 672-4410 / 083 457-9304

Issued by CSC (Pty) Limited 011 6467637