Empowering her community is a lifelong passion for Jacintha Willard

From donating clothes and groceries to upping maths skills and educating women about cervical cancer

Jacintha Willard.
Jacintha Willard.

Port St Johns’ Jacintha Willard traded her full-time job as a personal assistant to pursue her passion for helping people in rural areas.

In 2018, Willard bade farewell to Khanyisa High School in Mthatha as its personal assistant and dedicated herself full-time to catering to the needs of her community. 

The founder of Gandaganda Resident’s Forum, an NPO that runs various charitable initiatives in her hometown and neighbouring areas, started the initiative in 2019. 

This was after seeing how people in rural areas lacked access to basic needs. 

Among its many programmes, the NPO provides essential support to those in dire need and guidance to young people navigating life’s challenges.

Willard said she had decided to leave the office to focus more on empowering her community. 

“In 2018 I found myself very focused getting more involved in community initiatives. 

“I realised I didn't have enough time to work full-time and still focus on community development. Looking for funding and going out looking for sponsors takes time.”

She said growing up she had witnessed how people in rural areas were not getting enough resources. 

“I am driven by passion. I saw from my childhood how I always related to the community. 

“As you grow older you see the loopholes and start thinking of ways of how to solve your community’s problems that the government cannot reach.”

The 48-year-old, whose NPO focuses on people in rural areas, said these communities needed more interventions than those in urban areas. 

“It's where my heart is and where I mostly spend my time. I always think of the rural areas because any person can see how extreme the situations are in these places, from young people to the old.”

The NPO collects and donates clothes and groceries to scores of impoverished rural people.

“Growing up in rural areas we were disadvantaged and missed out on many things.

“Things are still the same. Experiencing and looking at it from where I grew up, these areas are forgotten. 

“It’s not only Port St Johns that we cater for but also in different parts of Mthatha, and soon I will be going to Bizana.”

She said the NPO was able to fill the gaps where needed. 

“There's lot of the other things that we are doing in developing communities. We don’t focus on one problem. We think of relevant solutions in different situations.

“Port St Johns’ is known as a disaster area we come with aid, food, clothing, we try to look for sport kits for youngsters and we also do medical outreach.”

Yearly, Willard and her team dedicate Mandela day as a medical outreach day, where people can do health screenings, test for different illnesses and be enlightened about health issues. 

“We help people at no charge and we do it in different places. This year we are hoping to have our medical outreaches at Qunu.

“Last year we focused on cervical cancer awareness because it is not really known by many people.”

Her forum has also helped teach coding and robotics in schools. 

They have also organised people who can assist in surrounding areas with extra maths lessons.

“I looked at the schools and realised they really struggled with maths and spoke with people who could assist.” 

Willard, who sometimes forks out of her own pocket, said she had started a day care, so she could have more money to help plough back into her work.

I opened day care so I can have money for airtime, petrol and to be able to go to different places and speak with people who can assist.”

“It's just a passion within me. Using some of my funds doesn't kill me,” she said. 

Willard was nominated by Sikhanyiso Tonise, who praised her for doing incredible work. 



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