It is no secret that community upliftment is an integral part of the fabric of Exemplar REITail. From pre-development stage through construction and post-opening, the Exemplar team’s mantra of ‘local first’ ensures that our properties provide for the communities surrounding them.
This ethos can be traced as far back as the very first major retail development done by McCormick Property Development (MPD) in 1983. Giyani Plaza included the first ever community BEE share scheme and the building of Kanyisa Primary School.
Meaning ‘to light up’ the educational facility ensured the local community had access to quality schooling that was not previously available. The Giyani Plaza share scheme allowed for local community members to own their own shares in the retail development and thus benefit from it financially.
Fast forward more than 70 developments and the listing of Exemplar (MPD’s property development and business management arm) and our communities continue to be our priority.
Initiatives have expanded to include the building of library and educational facilities, the building and refurbishing of houses, wetland rehabilitations, the establishment of community trusts, the creation of market gardens and most recently, the establishment of the Kasi CoLAB – a retail incubator that provides a platform for local entrepreneurs to gain access to capital while trading at our shopping centres.
Giving is in our DNA. It is what drives our mission of creating positive change for good at a national level on a daily basis both as a company and as a team.
That is why the much-celebrated Mandela Day is one of the highlights of our calendar. On the back of the pandemic and the July riots of last year, 2022 allowed us the opportunity to finally give back again on a scale that matched our heart strings.
This year, across the portfolio we rebuilt two houses, built a computer centre, hosted three community clean up drives in Diepkloof, Alexandra and Thembisa and sponsored the conversion to energy efficient lighting at three local clinics in Vosloorus. Clean-up drives included clearing of litter and rubble from vacant areas, refuse removal and general clearing of polluted areas. This is on top of numerous food donations, mattresses, school uniform and sanitary pad donations as well as blanket and beanie handouts. One of our favourite events from the month was a teacher appreciation programme that saw residents in Tsakane nominating teachers who are going above and beyond in the drive to provide quality education.
In addition, various local community centre upgrades were done by the teams across the five provinces in which our properties are based. A highlight was the Mabopane Square community garden. Based in Mabopane, Gauteng the centre assisted with the creation of a large community garden at a local clinic and donated all the necessary seedlings and equipment to assist the farmers to be a sustainable co-operative.
The positive impact of these ‘Change for Good’ initiatives is visible not only through the response of the beneficiaries but the response of our team members. Driving positive change and being a part of something that has an impact on others bonds our team members together, creating an environment that makes people want to do more, forming a cohesive unit that gets stronger with each act of giving.
Launched in 2018, the Change for Good movement slowly started gaining traction with our team members. Marketing teams began focusing their campaigns more and more around community give-back and donations and before long they were competing against each other to see who could drive the most positive change. Talk about healthy competition.
It was in 2020, during the hard lockdown that this mission was really entrenched. Once shoppers were able to return to our malls, we began serving tea and coffee to elders and disabled customers as they waited for their SASSA grants. This quickly evolved to the handing out of dignity packs (a small pack with necessary toiletries), umbrellas and sun hats or blankets and beanies depending on the season and the serving of a warm meal every month.
For many of our shoppers, this is their first hot meal in a couple of days and allows them to take their much-needed medication. Some of our sites are serving over 900 litres of soup and 1400 hotdogs a day, before the stores even open at 9am.
These small acts of change that have become part of our everyday actions have begun to inspire. They have created social units of cohesion and support that bring people together to find ways that they can do more – it is through these daily acts that we believe we can create the South Africa that we have the potential to be.
The needs of our country are great but the desire to give back, to inspire and to change for good is greater.
Together we can rise.
Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika
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