Cool Fresh, Capespan kick-start social projects in Eastern Cape’s citrus belt

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Cool Fresh, Capespan kick-start social projects in Eastern Cape’s citrus belt

Netherlands-based fresh fruit distributor Cool Fresh is ramping up its projects in South Africa by partnering with Capespan’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) division to start a literacy program in remote parts of the Eastern Cape. 

The seasonal nature of the fresh produce industry means communities in many rural areas often struggle because of the lack of employment opportunities at certain times of the year.

This contributes to a cycle of poverty, according to Cool Fresh International CSR director Nic Jooste.

"Because of the fact that a lot of the work is seasonal you have peak times where people have access to work and a lot of time they don’t and the communities are always struggling especially in times when there is not enough work - and that is when all of the “social ills” starts to happen,” he tells Fresh Fruit Portal.  

Cool Fresh has been active in the Eastern Cape with its 'Stars in their Eyes' initiative before, but the new campaign with Capespan and several NGOS - including youth development project Tembalethu Trust - will take its CSR to a new level in the region.

One of the plans is working with Cape Town-based NGO Little Libraries, initially created by Camille Quine in 2013. The organization provides a “first step” into literacy and reading by giving pre-school children, who are looked after in care centers in disadvantaged communities, access to books.

The education and literacy project operates under the auspices of Cool Fresh International’s Stars in their Eyes Foundation.

"Giving kids access to bookcases filled with a variety of books can make such a huge difference to literacy levels, especially in rural areas," adds Jooste.

"The whole process with the libraries has been proven in the Western Cape. It really does make a difference to these kids because by the time they get to school they already have a feeling and knowledge about books as well as the alphabet.

"These kids aged between one and five years old would otherwise not have access to books.

"It’s one thing running a project like this in the city where everybody can find work wherever they are because the employment opportunities are a lot more diverse, but the Eastern Cape is really a rural area where the whole aspect of literacy is a big problem because of the remoteness of the villages and schools."

Other social community work will involve the Thembalethu Aids & Edu Trust which focuses on outreach programmes including youth development and training, preschool teacher training, a feeding scheme for preschool children, as well as character transformation and gardening projects.

Cool Fresh’s Stars in their Eyes Foundation has a solid track record of using sport, particularly soccer, as a driving force to help children in rural communities. The organization has been involved in the training of around 800 coaches from more than 240 communities all over South Africa.

And as the largest exporter of fresh fruit from South Africa, Capespan established its Foundation more than a decade ago to drive its corporate social investment mandate and has implemented various social, health and educational development programmes, which is referred to as the Capespan Blue Hand Programme at a project level.

At the launch of the joint partnership, Capespan CSR manager Ansonette van der Merwe said joint ventures could drastically increase the impact and scope of community development.

She appealed to local government to partner with the organizations involved to provide resources, such as the use of venues for sport development, and being involved and present at activities which are hosted at grassroots level.

Cool Fresh managing director Hugo Vermeulen said South Africa had a special place in the hearts of the people of his company. He praised Capespan for joining the project without hesitation, and said Cool Fresh’s experience in social projects in South Africa over 15 years had shown that “unselfish” involvement in social projects could create waves of synergy.

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