Helping children to help themselves

Social development is as important to White Shark Projects as conserving the sharks and our marine environment. Without healthy development in local communities, our business is neither responsible nor sustainable. Our commitment to social upliftment goes further than providing equitable employment; it extends into the social fabric of the local Masakhane community.

One of our most recent projects is the Masakhane/White Shark Projects swop shop. It combines conservation, social improvement and education in a unique way. The children of Masakhane collect bottles, tins, plastics and other recyclables and bring them in bags to the White Shark ‘Swop Shop’. In return, they earn buying points that they ‘spend’ in the shop. The shop opens at two on Tuesday afternoons, but the children gather long before that, lining up to earn their points. Happy chatter fills the air as they wait their turn to trade in their points for something from the Swop Shop. For example, one bag of tins might be traded for a bar of soap, two might be worth a pencil, four a second-hand t-shirt and so on. Or the children can ‘save up’ for something more expensive like a toy they have their eye on.

The shop carries only worthwhile stock such as stationery, simple clothing, and food basics, and relies completely on donations. In this way, the children learn valuable lessons about caring for their environment: They learn that it’s important to recycle resources and at the same time, they learn to care for their environment by picking up litter. Not only does their village look nicer, but they also earn something through this care. Conservation, they see, has many values.

The underlying vision of the Swop Shop is to empower these historically disadvantaged children, helping them grow into self-sufficient, contributing adults. By encouraging them to use what they have around them, they see that in small ways, they can improve their lives.

Karla van der Westhuyzen