Approximately 30 million South Africans live on less than R1 000 a month. The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated poverty and unemployment, with many families struggling to meet their most basic needs, such as putting food on the table.
With a passion for achieving real social change the team at Vollar, a Stellenbosch-based social-enterprise agency, has developed a virtual currency to compensate people who do volunteer work in their communities so they can buy essential items to feed and sustain their families.
According to Moshibudi Piet, Vollar’s Marketing and Communications Manager, volunteerism has the potential to create sustainable opportunities for the people volunteering as well as impact their communities in a positive way. “It can become a means to achieving economic and social transformation, particularly in challenging times,” she said.
“By our very nature as people we are designed to work and be productive. Our virtual currency, or “vollars”, provide a means for people to be acknowledged for giving their time to improving their communities, while the community collectively determines its immediate needs or focus areas to benefit from volunteerism, whether it be safety and security, aesthetic improvements, religious commitments, mentoring and tutoring, or care for the aged, to name a few.”
Essentially, vollars work based on financial support from donors, such as NGOs and big business that do upliftment work in communities, and can be spent only at vetted small businesses in the community. Once someone has been rewarded with vollars they are able to spend them via Payper, a payment platform, in much the same way they would make a traditional payment.
Vollar provides the technological platform for volunteerism to be rewarded.
It is a novel system that was trialled with much success in the community of Kylemore in Stellenbosch, just before the implementation of the national lockdown earlier this year and was able to create up to 50 employment opportunities weekly in that community.
Says Moshibudi: “We also found the residents of Kylemore worked well together, and rotated opportunities to work in the community so more people were able to benefit over time. We are excited about the outcomes of this pilot project, since early findings show that it has the potential to be implemented with much success elsewhere in neighbourhoods, which require some form of support with meeting basic needs.”
Small and informal businesses in the communities are able to benefit from Vollar. They are assured of continued customer support and additional revenue, since vollars can be redeemed at participating stores only. Opportunities also exist to expand product ranges as demand increases and community support grows.
Volunteerism can also be the means to initiate permanent employment, being a platform to gain experience, creating a safe space to develop hard and soft skills, boosting self-confidence, and enabling the honing of those skills beneficial to the workplace, such as teamwork, communication, problem solving, project management and organisation.
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