Gabriella Hanna champions the pebble effect

A few years ago, I was feeling quite down about how little of an impact I was making in the bigger scheme of things – such a large portion of the population is in need of assistance. I felt that the best I was doing was facilitating a few apprenticeships a year or handing over a packet of sanitary towels or snack packs at schools. It was during this time that my manager, Sharene Koopman, told me that even though my circle of influence is small, I may inspire someone in that circle to go out and do something in their community … and through that they might inspire someone else, and so on. This is what I now call the pebble effect.

During this year, I’ve been given many opportunities through my job to throw out a pebble. I’ve always been involved in socio-economic development on a small scale, as well as skills development through our apprenticeship programme. However, this year saw me champion two big socio-economic development initiatives – our Vision 4 Change and our volunteer planting Mandela Day initiative in association with Food & Trees for Africa. I don’t think our impact here is measurable – as who knows what the kids at the school, who can now see the blackboard clearly, will one day become and the influence they will have? The same applies for our Mandela Day initiative – which saw us plant food gardens, trees for shade and fruit, as well as create some employment opportunities for community members.

The paper work and admin that forms part of my every day routine is a necessary evil, and of course I’m happy to do that. However, the rewarding part of my work is to work together with people who are incredibly motivated to succeed – this applies to my apprenticeships, the school principals I have met recently, as well as to my enterprise development partners. If there is one thing I strive for every day, it is that people will see the value in what we are doing in our transformation initiatives and be swept along with the passion I feel for all of my projects.

When enterprise development is done right and with the correct intention, I believe it can add so much value to the emerging enterprise. I’m currently working with Isiyalu Manufacturing and Retailing, an enterprise development partner to the Mechanical & Electrical business unit. The business founder, William Dhlongolo, formed a women’s manufacturing co-operative and is incredibly driven to do right by the fifty-two employees that work for Isiyalu. He recognizes the impact our involvement can have on the growth of the business and the people employed by it, and is excited by the prospects.

My job also entails building relationships with the people I now feel responsible for. I visit my apprentices once a month to deliver their pay slips and to touch base on how they are doing. And I am so incredibly proud when they do well – ten of them passed their trade tests just this year! I’ve also been given the opportunity by our development director Charles Wright to become involved in other school projects, where we can be instrumental in changing the shocking state of the existing infrastructure in three Limpopo schools. It’s a fact that by creating a hygienic, clean and conducive learning environment or through ensuring learners have a square meal a day, it will have an impact on their performance at school. Don’t get me started, as I’m very passionate on this subject matter.

I think that, as Sharene explained to me, we’ll never fully know what will happen because of the pebbles we throw out, but it’s an encouraging thought to know that they will almost certainly create a ripple eff ect. And because I’m so invested in the transformation journey of my ‘projects’ I hope to continue seeing some positive results.

(This was written for an in-house sustainability report after a two-hour car journey with Gaby)

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