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Community developer steps up to the plate

Seeing the hope in people’s eyes when they realise help is on the horizon is what drives Adre Bartis in her mission as a community developer.
As chairwoman of the Border-Kei Chamber of Business in Komani, Bartis, 40, when not at her office, spends her time giving back to the community by offering her services to two White Door Centres of Hope, as well as a project for abused women.
A White Door Centre, staffed by mostly volunteers who depend on government and corporate funding, exists as a short-term safe space that victims can access if they need to wait for professional services, including police.
Bartis also mentors young entrepreneurs from around Komani to be better prepared to run their businesses.
“I arrived in Komani six years ago from Cape Town, where I used to work for non-governmental organisations.
“We used to interact with the communities and I got to understand their needs – this led to who I am today,” she said.
She said when she first came to Komani, she spent the first nine months unemployed. The time allowed her to be involved in community projects and the fight for the rights of disabled people.
“I then got involved with Sinethemba Community Project – which helps abused women in Whittlesea. For this project, we equip them with skills to make sure that they are independent.
“We also formed a bakery within the project,” Bartis said, explaining that the women made bread that they sold to the surrounding community.
She also volunteered at the Ilitha White Door Centre of Hope in Ezibeleni and was among those who formed the Nomaxabiso White Door centre in Whittlesea, which received support from President Cyril Ramaphosa while he was still deputy president.
“Now I have broadened my work after seeing young entrepreneurs from around the Komani area struggling with their businesses.
“I mentor them for free so they can face the challenges and be mentally prepared to run their businesses,” she said.
After noticing the lack of communication between the municipality and the Komani community, she also decided to start asking the municipality for information, to relay to people.
“That has helped the community a lot and now they call me for information,” said Bartis.
She said through working with Enoch Mgijima Municipality councillors Nkululeko Ngcefe and Mncedisi Mbengo, they had identified four families in Mlungisi location in Komani, who they will assist in building homes, along with the help of donors.
“Among the beneficiaries is a 98-year-old woman who lives with her 14 grandchildren in a dilapidated house, and an 87-year-old woman who is suffering from cancer and stays in a shack behind her collapsing house,” she said.
Bartis also draws people from Whittlesea into her skills development programme, as it is linked to the Nomaxabiso centre.
“Making a difference in people’s lives is my passion. I have been involved with community development for 25 years.
“I could not hold myself back [from tearing up] after we donated blankets to a woman in Cacadu.
“The old woman told us she had never slept on a bed and cried when we donated a bed and blankets to her,” said Bartis. —tembiles@dispatch.co.za..

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