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
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
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
quick links to other articles