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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
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VISSER, Wessel. The establishment of Solidarity's Helping Hand as a successful community based welfare organisation. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2011, vol.51, n.1, pp.21-35. ISSN 2224-7912.

The trade union Solidarity, formerly known as the South African Mine Workers' Union, is apparently the fi rst union in the country to create its own, private welfare department. Established in 1949, the original aim of the Helping Hand fund was to financially assist Afrikaner mineworkers who became unfit for work due to work-related disabilities. Between 1949 and 1997, the department's welfare assistance schemes had had varied successes although its welfare fund grew steadily, and at times, even spectacularly. One of these early enterprises, which had limited success, was the founding of the Transvaal Doll and Ornament Company in Alberton. The proceeds of this doll making factory were utilised as a supplementary income for widows whose husbands had become victims of miners' phthisis. However, due to a lack of entrepreneurial experience and capital the company was liquidated in 1951. Since 1997, under the management of Flip Buys, the union had been restructured and subsequently it was renamed Solidarity. The restructuring of the welfare department in particular was based on the Israeli Histadrut. The Histadrut is a labour service delivery organisation with interests in education, job creation, general services, sports, trade and industry, insurance and health and pension schemes. Although there were many differences between the Israeli labour situation and that of South Africa, Buys was convinced that Solidarity could learn from the experience of the Histadrut and base its own plans for the future on that model. In 2001 Solidarity's welfare department was relaunched as Solidarity Helping Hand. Various factors contributed to this initiative. State welfare spending became racially biased. In Gauteng Province, for instance, welfare subsidies to organisations which had catered for poor whites were phased out. Affirmative action policies contributed to a renewed poor white problem. This in turn aggravated the housing and food needs of such persons. In its new structure the Helping Hand initiated various innovative projects and also extended its scope of welfare assistance to the wider Afrikaans-speaking community. In terms of social welfare it has been transformed into a successful community based welfare organisation. In 2005 Solidarity Helping Hand was registered with the Department of Welfare as a non-profi t Article 21 company. Among other things, its projects included food relief schemes for white squatter camps and school feeding schemes for Afrikaner poor white children, as well as material assistance to old age and children's homes. For instance, in 2005, with the liquidation of the DRD goldmine at Stilfontein, Solidarity Helping Hand became involved, in conjunction with the Stilfontein community, in a food relief scheme that supported approximately 3000 persons for fi ve months. A Solidarity Helping Hand Bursary Fund was established in 2003. By 2007 bursaries to the value of R1.2 million had already been paid out to 377 students whose parents were members of Solidarity. In 2009 the bursary scheme was extended. A Solidarity Helping Hand Afrikaans Bursary and Professional Training Institute were launched in order to give prospective Afrikaans students access to a larger variety of bursaries. By 2009, 60 years after its humble beginnings in 1949, Solidarity Helping Hand had grown into an organisation with 21 staff members employed both in its head office in Pretoria and a regional office in the Western Cape. Twenty five branches have also been established all over South Africa. In an era of inadequate service delivery by the state, also in terms of welfare services, the Helping Hand has achieved a proud track record of comprehensive and praiseworthy welfare projects. Its stated objective is to be a future-driven organisation which functions within a Christian value system and strives to break the circle of poverty. Afrikaans communities should be equipped to find solutions for the welfare needs in their environment. According to Buys, people should be empowered rather than become part of a welfare state and dependent on state welfare. For Solidarity's Helping Hand the solution, therefore, is self-help.

Keywords : Mine Workers' Union; doll factory; Solidarity; Helping Hand; Histadrut; welfare department; Afrikaner mine workers; Flip Buys; welfare aid; emergency relief; feeding schemes; bursary scheme; Danie Langner; fund raising; self-help.

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