Community building in Africa
Over the next five years, the Ford Fund, which is the philanthropic branch of Ford Motor Company, is investing $4-million towards community building across the African continent. This includes the announcement of the new Ford Research and Engagement Centre (FREC) that will be opened near Ford's Silverton Assembly Plant in Pretoria.
The new centre, which is modelled on the highly successful FREC in southwest Detroit, is scheduled to open in October this year. It will become the first international expansion of this concept, with Ford Motor Company Fund investing more than R2-million annually to provide job training and entrepreneurial development for approximately 200 people a year.
Improving lives in Port Elizabeth
As part of his first-ever visit to Port Elizabeth, Vella is also visiting two local projects supported by the Ford Motor Company Fund. The Ford Fund has a strong association with the city, having funded a multi-year programme to provide housing for residents of the Vastrap informal settlement in Booysen Park.
The project started out as part of Ford's annual Global Week of Caring, which has now developed into the far-reaching Global Month of Caring, held in September each year. This sees thousands of Ford employees around the world volunteering their time, energy and expertise to improve the lives of others.
Over the past two years, the team from the Struandale Engine Plant and local non-profit organisation KICK converted 11 shipping containers into housing units for 20 destitute families in Vastrap. The so-called 'Blue Village' has become a landmark of hope and opportunity in this poor community, and provides safe and secure homes for young families, as well as the elderly.
"The Vastrap container project really captures the spirit of Ford's 'Better World' programme, and we are proud to support this wonderful initiative that goes a long way to improving peoples' lives," Vella said.
In co-operation with the Nelson Mandela Bay's Department of Human Settlements, and with further support from the Ford Motor Company Fund, the team is planning the next phase of the project. This aims to replicate the process at a new transit site, which will provide temporary housing before the families are allocated permanent homes at the new Khayamnandi and Joe Slovo housing sites in Port Elizabeth.
Along with numerous other local community projects, the Ford Fund has also assisted Jeanny's Soup Kitchen, located in Malabar, by funding the conversion of two shipping containers, one of which serves as a kitchen and the other as a dining hall and community centre.
Run by Jeanny Edwards, the volunteer organisation supplies hearty, home-cooked meals for around 300 children and adults from the local area three times a week, providing much-needed sustenance for this impoverished community.