Class of Intellek

For many CEOs, celebrating a 20-year workiversary coupled with a 40th birthday might be the perfect time for a party. However, as I shared in my Looking Back at 20 Years of Success! blog, that wasn’t for me. Instead, I wanted to continue opening doors to new opportunities and build a legacy with the team.  

So off to South Africa we went, with a jampacked agenda!

1000 Hills Community Helpers

As many of you know, I’ve been supporting 1000 Hills Community Helpers for several years now, a remarkable charity based in Inchanga, just outside of Durban. This nonprofit organisation, was founded 30 years ago by the one and only, Dawn Leppan. She is an inspiration to me and a local hero to thousands.  

Dawn is dedicated to supporting and empowering her underprivileged community through education, skills development, and community care programs. She started small, serving soup from the back of her pickup truck. Today, Dawn and her team feed 10,000+ people a week. The 1000 Hills centre has multiple classrooms for children up to the age of 5, a clinic, a counselling centre, a computer room, a growing garden of vegetables and an enormous catering team preparing nutritious hot meals all day long. It’s truly incredible and is relied upon by a community of 70,000 people. It’s where the community gathers, not only for food and health checks, but for a sense of belonging and self-worth.  

“While 1000 Hills Community Helpers provides vital charity services like food, healthcare, and assistance to those in need, I was most inspired by the organisation’s empowerment work. As the saying goes, giving someone fish feeds them for a day, but giving them a rod and teaching them to fish feeds them for life. This is also backed up by the charity’s provision of educational and skills development services.

Additional efforts to equip families with civil documents and services impacts future generations by enabling social mobility. Simple access to documentation unlocks the gate towards economic rights and poverty alleviation programs. By lifting up South Africa’s invisible citizens from the edges of society 1000HCH drives truly meaningful change.”

Ricci Masero

Class of Intellek – Opening Doors to New Opportunities 

So… when my double anniversary came around, I knew exactly how I wanted to celebrate. Sadly, not everyone could come, due to other commitments, but everyone supported the decision and agreed that creating something tangible that will help change lives for years to come, was better than any fleeting party!  

With that vision, I reached out to Dawn and asked what she needed most for 2024. She shared that they would benefit from a new classroom that could also be used for after-school educational activities, help with homework, and provision of care for children aged 4+ needing nutritious meals.  

This was perfect, something we could support and get involved with. This would be the only support centre of its kind in the community, and it would be named “Class of Intellek – Opening Doors to New Opportunities and a Safe Space.” 

This new space will allow more students to continue their education in a dedicated learning space when, in most cases, they don’t have the privilege of being able to go home for that quiet time or the support needed. It will serve as a safe space where children can read books, receive tutoring and mentorship, and develop their skills.  

The Weeks Leading up to the Trip 

As you can imagine, the team had a plethora of questions! What will we be doing each day? What is the community like? Is it safe? However, many stories I shared with the team from my previous trips, I knew nothing would prepare them for the experience ahead.

It’s a feeling you get when you’re there. A feeling of being part of something much bigger than you can imagine. A feeling of purpose. South Africa is a magical place and the Inchanga community is a huge family. They welcome you with open arms, and their ability to remain upbeat, despite the challenges they face, is admirable.  

Getting Stuck in Where Needed 

I didn’t want this to just be a financial contribution and leave the community to it. I wanted to give the team the opportunity to be hands-on and fully invested in this endeavour.  

We spent nearly a month in the breathtaking valley of 1000 Hills. While there, the team had the opportunity to work side-by-side with the 1000 Hills team to deliver food parcels and clothes into the community, doing basic DIY tasks at the centre, helping to entertain the children (aged newborn–5 years), organising games with the older children after school and serving afterschool meals (aged 6–16 years), and assisting in the classroom.

We assisted with Meals on Wheels, providing free meals across the community. We conducted door-to-door welfare home visits, assessing living conditions and distributing essentials like school uniforms for children. We lent a hand at the free health clinics filing records and distributing medications. After school each day, we prepped snacks and meals for the hundreds of kids who flock to the centre.

We also arranged a football tournament… bedlam! We had 58 kids sign up aged 8–15 and 160+ turned up!! They had the best time so the chaos was worth it.

“Before my trip to South Africa, I’d heard plenty of stories, but nothing prepared me for the experience I actually had! It turned out to be the best adventure! The people I met were so kind, and always happy. The 1000 Hills community centre is amazing, they accomplish so much. It was an inspiration to see and I’m so grateful for the opportunity. I feel fortunate to have been in a position to experience it all, and I’m determined to carry forward the lessons learned during my time in South Africa.”

Sophie Clements

“The time we spent at 1000 Hills was an eye-opening experience for me. Not only does the charity act as a helping hand, but also a support to the community. Their tight-knit team was more than welcoming and more than willing to share their culture with us. Knowing that we supported the construction of a new classroom and safe space for the kids was a genuinely validating experience”

Xavier Campbell

From painting furniture to handing out meals, everyone embraced every task assigned to them. While capturing photos, I took a moment to stand back and watch the team, and I felt a deep sense of purpose and pride, that went beyond any professional accomplishment.

Volunteering in the Inchanga community have been some of the best moments in my life, and to be able to see the passion and joy that the team had was very emotional and overwhelming at times. We were fostering connections that surpassed cultural boundaries, and we were working together in our mission to open doors to new opportunities, uplifting these children’s lives through support and education. 

“Volunteering with 1000 Hills will remain a real standout moment in my life full of overwhelming sensory blasts. There was the heat of the South African summer and the pleasure of gorgeous, tropical plants wherever you looked. Then the clamour of children coming at you from all directions and the clatter of pots from the kitchen as another meal was prepared for the school children and surrounding communities. 

But what impacted me most strongly was the spontaneous eruption of singing from the least expected of places. The volunteers bursting into song whilst washing up just to entertain themselves, to the impromptu football songs from a group of young girls during our 5-a-side tournament. Living the hardest of lives these people still had enough joy within them to sing for pleasure whenever the chance arose. 

I was expecting to see misery, poverty, dirty, dusty and dilapidated shacks – whilst all of this was there in abundance, the 1000 Hills centre itself was a revelation of cleanliness, uplifting energy and high spirits. I will always remember the characters I met there and the places I visited as one of the most rewarding and craziest times of my life!”

Lisa Tucker

“My time volunteering with 1000 Hills was incredible! Being part of their community-driven projects was eye-opening, and something that resonates with me long after I’ve returned home. Whether delivering food parcels, working in the clinic, contributing to our classroom build, or simply looking after the toddlers, every moment felt like we were making a difference.

But what really stood out were the people – their resilience and warmth was infectious. One part that will stay with me forever is meeting Tracy, one of the children Intellek sponsors. Her hilarious personality, seeing her smile, and knowing we made such a positive impact on her life, it was everything. This experience changed my perspective, and strengthened my commitment to supporting communities in need.”

Liv Tucker

Our Long-Lasting Learning Legacy 

Those weeks working together with the dedicated team at 1000 Hills, taught us so much about resilience, community-building, the uphill battles impoverished communities face, and the incredible progress that can happen when people come together to uplift others. Everyone developed long-lasting connections in that short time, and I know the team will look forward to returning one day.  

“Meeting this community and seeing the fantastic work that we support through our partner charity has been humbling, and rewarding beyond measure. Seeing the new classroom full with students on the final day was fantastic, slightly emotional and one of the proudest moments of my life.”

Daryl Fitzpatrick
Class of Intellek - Opening Doors to New Opportunities

The Class of Intellek will help open doors for Inchanga’s next generation, it’s provided a safe space and tangible opportunities to learn and thrive for many years to come. Our work doesn’t stop there though, we will continue to support the Inchanga community. This experience was far more rewarding than any party could ever be.  

I still believe learning should be considered a tool for eradicating poverty and an opportunity to ignite a revolution for future progress, and I will continue to use my platform to create meaningful change… 

Watch this space!