Starfish – valuing and protecting children
25 April 2016
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Brad Brown: Great things start here, great things start now. The countdown continues to the 2016 Comrades Marathon and over the last few weeks we’ve been chatting to a couple of the official charities to find out what they do and how you can get involved.
We’re joined by another one today and it’s a charity that does incredible work at grassroots level. It’s a pleasure to welcome onto the show today the CEO of Starfish, Belinda Te Riele. Belinda welcome, thanks for joining us today.
Belinda Te Riele: Thanks Brad, it’s an absolute pleasure, a wonderful opportunity.
BB: And nice to catch up. We tend to only speak around Comrades because that’s when we do get to see each other. But I love that we’re talking about it again because Comrades is around the corner. But it’s always important to put a spotlight on the important work that you guys do.
BTR: Thank you, yes it is important and often it’s happening out there at a grassroots level and not always on peoples’ radar.
The idea behind Starfish
BB: Belinda, let’s talk about Starfish as the organisation and what you guys do. It’s also one of those organisations that’s been around for a while, you’ve got a track record and you do some great work. Where did it all start? Tell us how it began for Starfish.
BTR: Yes, so Starfish was established in 2001 by a group of South African expats living in London. They were sitting around the table at a coffee shop and recognised there was something they could do in response to the plight of children being left orphaned and vulnerable as a result of HIV and AIDS. So collectively they got their friends, family and colleagues and raised funds to support projects and children in South Africa and then just sent the money over.
BB: That was back in 2001, obviously the landscape’s changed, things have changed in the country dramatically, obviously policy from a government perspective and that sort of thing. How has that affected the organisation and what you guys do, have you evolved with the times as well?
BTR: We have because in 2003 Starfish established its own operational base in South Africa and developed its fundraising team and a programmes team. But still has an office based in the US and the UK who are primarily a fundraising team.
Giving communities a hand up
Our vision really is to see that children in South Africa are valued and protected. We do this by working in partnership with community based organisations. Our approach is to empower individuals and communities so that they are able to take responsibility for their own quality of life and that of their children. Really following a more a hands up approach as opposed to a hand-out approach.
BB: I love what you do because it is very community centred. That it’s like you say, it’s not a hand-out, it’s a hand up. You’re empowering communities to basically look after these vulnerable kids.
BTR: Absolutely, they know best. We work with partners in communities who know the children, they identify the children who are vulnerable or in need. Either through home-based carers or the school or just members of the community. We currently support over 12 000 children working with 30 partners nationwide.
BB: I mean, those numbers are incredible, Belinda. I think a lot of people don’t realise the sort of impact that HIV AIDS has had on the young population in this country. How many kids are actually affected by, that have lost parents and been orphaned because of the disease.
Many of those kids, not only are they orphaned but they’re the oldest of maybe two or three or four siblings that they then need to go out and look after, brothers and sisters. When they should in essence be a kid and sort of get an education and grow up like we want our kids to.
BTR: Absolutely, they are our future, the future generation and on that just to understand some of the programming. Our key objectives are really to improve the health and wellbeing of children and to develop the capacity of our partners, the community based organisations.
So that they’re better able to manage childcare programmes. The wellness programme has really developed in response to the high levels of child mortality and morbidity in South Africa. We have very much based on a primary healthcare programme, preventative approach.
This is supported by our newly launched Wellness Wagon which is a mobile clinic. We have one based in KwaZulu-Natal and one in the Eastern Cape, who has a nurse. She offers a number of services starting with general health screening, top to toe health screening, TB screening, HIV testing and then just general healthcare education.
Getting involved with Comrades
BB: Brilliant, I think that’s fantastic. Let’s talk about your relationship with the Comrades Marathon and how far that goes back and how that all started.
BTR: Starfish has been very fortunate, we’ve been partnering with Comrades since about 2002. Over the course of time we’ve become part of the Amabeadibeadi charity. There are now six charities, Starfish being one of them. It’s just a great opportunity for leveraging funds and support from the public.
We have an initiate called Greathearts where you can run for Starfish. You can now run, cycle, swim but particularly for the Comrades we have people who are running. They raised funds or sponsorships through their companies, through friends, through family.
This year we set a target at about R600 000 to be raised through our Comrades Greathearts. Then also thanks to the Race For Charity website, which allows people to improve their time, be part of the C batch and again raise funds, a minimum of R5 000. So there are many ways in which people can get on board whether you’re running or whether you just want to support a runner.
BB: Yes, let’s talk about how people can get involved. You mentioned the runners and that’s something we’ve spoken about at length here on the podcast. Old Mutual obviously have a big drive as well for people to do these events for what they call More than Yourself and they’ve got a fundraising platform at morethenyourself.co.za.
How you can race for charity
But specifically for Comrades you mentioned race for charity and it’s pretty simple as a runner. If you’d like to support one of the six charities and if Starfish is the one you decide to choose. All you have to do is go to comrades.com and sort of log in as you would to update your details. If you needed to put in your qualifying time of whatever it is, or update your club or licence number. What you can do is you can choose your charity there.
It will then automatically create you a fundraising page which you can then send that link out to your network of influence. Whether it be friends, family, colleagues and that sort of thing and just ask people. That’s my big thing, just ask people to support you. Tell them why you’re doing it and literally raise yourself R5 000 for one of those charities and you’ll get into the C batch.
If you’re sitting in H, I always joke about the H batch on the Comrades Down run, the H actually stands for Howick. For the Comrades runners who don’t know, because you’re so far back at that start you actually start in Howick, that’s how far back it is.
If you want to leapfrog and get into one of the better seeding batches, C is where you can get R5 000 to charity is the easiest way to do it. Belinda, obviously you’ve been able to raise funds through that but you also have other activations. Like at the expo and that sort of thing where people can donate to Starfish as well. Tell us a little bit about what you’ve got up your sleeve for Comrades 2016.
Look out for Starfish at the expo
BTR: Yes, well we encourage everyone to visit the Starfish stand or the Amabeadibeadi stand and there’s some merchandising. Surprise, surprise, you have to go there to see what there is and just to meet some of the team and to engage each other.
We’ve got 81 runners so far signed up and there’s just a wonderful camaraderie and friendship that’s developing between people who don’t even know each other. But just online through our various communiqués. So it would be wonderful to just go and meet each other and then sign up.
What we’re really trying to gear up is individual giving. So while we have various sources of income there’s nothing better than people who are living in South Africa taking some responsibility and sign up to become a monthly donor. We really want to push for that and it can be as little as R100 or R150, whatever you like. So every bit makes a difference and just to know that you can make a difference in the life of a child.
BB: And that I love. I mean, I get goose bumps just as you say that because that’s essentially what it is and that’s where it came from, the Starfish, I’m presuming. There’s the story about the guy walking down the beach and picking up starfish and throwing it back in the water. You might not be able to help all of them but you’re making a difference to that one person and that’s exactly what you guys do. You can make a difference to one person and that’s so important.
Getting hold of Starfish
BTR: One starfish at a time, one child at a time, and it’s the power of the people it really. South Africans can make a difference and I know we’re going through difficult times and there’s often a sense of hopelessness. But if you just play your part and you do something, even if it’s small, collectively it makes all the difference. It’s really our appeal so get on board, be part of it, be part of the Starfish family. We’d love to hear from you, we’d love to partner with you and together we go far.
BB: Yes, I couldn’t agree more. Belinda. If people want to find out more about Starfish, I know you guys are very active online, where can people learn more and sort of reach out and connect with you guys?
BTR: You can go to our website, www.starfishcharity.org or our Facebook, Starfish Charity. If you like you can Tweet Starfish Charity. If you want to just pop us a mail, mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org.
BB: It’s as easy as that. We’ll put those links in the show notes to this episode of Old Mutual Live as well. Belinda, looking forward to catching up at the Comrades expo once again this year. Best of luck in the final run in, I hope you get that goal and beyond. Let’s hope it does go beyond that R600 000. We look forward to catching up in Durban. Take care.
BTR: Thanks Brad and thanks to all the supporters and all the runners and all the best for the day, thinking of you. We’re with you; we’ll be cheering on the side.