If there is one thing that can be said for Lowvelders, it’s that we are eager to help and get involved in charitable projects. As such the Mpumalanga branch of the Round Table has a solid support base and has been able to help destitute communities far and wide. We speak to chairman Werner Swanepoel about the joys of giving.
Blessed beyond measure, Werner has always believed in giving back and making an impactful change in society. “I grew up in a home where our door was always open to those in need and giving to the less fortunate was part of my upbringing. It goes beyond just giving money to charities, and for me it’s about making a difference long term,” he explains.
Three years ago Werner joined the Mpumalanga branch of the Round Table, which is an international organisation with representation on every continent, and has since taken up the reigns as area chairman for the province. He notes that membership is open to professional, working men aged between 18 and 40.
The Round Table is non-political and non-denominational. “The organisation gives you the chance to be a part of something bigger and also offers the opportunity to meet like-minded individuals and build a global network. Whether you have time or money to give, the Round Table is a credible organisation where you can really make a difference.”
Werner relates how the organisation managed to raise R180 000 for the Endangered Wildlife Trust for their initiative to conserve wild dogs. “This was a project that really meant a lot to me and the donation we made was the biggest they had ever received. As a result my children and grandchildren will be able to see wild dogs one day because there have been funds made available to protect their existence.”
Another remarkable feat is the drought aid that the Round Table is collecting on an ongoing basis for destitute farmers in the Northern Cape. “These farmers have nothing left. They were on the brink of losing their whole livelihoods when we were able to donate millions of rand of lucerne and water for their livestock. When you see grown men cry from gratitude, you realise how amazing it is to be able to make this kind of impact on people’s lives.”
Provincially, the Table collects over R1 million for charity annually and Lowvelders will be pleased to know that the ever-popular Sabie Tube Race is one of the largest contributors.
Established in 1965 the event started as a fun experience for Round Table members, but realising the popularity, they grew it to a bigger development open to the public. Last year just under 3 000 people floated down the Sabie River in aid of charity, making it one of the largest Round Table events globally. The tube race also has the added benefit of supporting businesses in the Sabie area as people from all over South Africa flock to the town for the weekend.
To give greater exposure to the plights of different countries, each province has a chance to host the AGM annually and this year it’s Mpumalanga’s turn. Werner plans to use the opportunity to attract as much support as possible for local projects. “This is a great opportunity to get the attention of leaders from around the world. All the Tables in South Africa submit proposals for projects that need support and we have the opportunity to showcase this to the AGM attendees and get international involvement.
“Another aspect that makes this event unique is that many of the delegates attending are home-hosted by someone locally so they get a real South African experience and insight into our culture. Since the AGM will take place in the Lowveld, we also have the opportunity to place the spotlight on the area and we will not miss the opportunity to gain as much support as we can in our goal of uplifting our country.”
Werner is passionate about this work and is enthusiastic about encouraging new members to join the Round Table. “There are so many wonderful things happening within this organisation and you have the opportunity to meet people from all over the world, from all walks of life. There are even prospects for honing your business skills through running meetings, giving presentations and operating within a corporate environment.”
While the organisation is only open to men, Werner adds that the ladies circle is associated with the Round TAble and offers them the opportunity to get involved if they want to give back to their community. “Our wives are heavily involved but aren’t members, they are the ‘legs’ of the table. As yet there is no ladies circle in Mpumalanga and we would welcome those interested to get in touch so that we can get one going. Furthermore any charity that is in need of support can contact us. We are here only to serve the community – nothing else.”
Text: LINDI BOTHA