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The Papillon Foundation is a public benefit NGO working towards the economic and social development of previously disadvantaged communities in Rosettenville, south of Johannesburg. Registered in January 2002, the Foundation has initiated various successful social outreach projects to empower communities to meet their own needs.

It achieves this by working in partnership with the University of the Witwatersrand, ICDL, Computer Society of South Africa, University of Johannesburg Hotel School, Law Society of South Africa, Lawyers for Human Rights, the South Africana Human Rights Commission, and several other institutions, that are active in its social outreach and societal improvement projects.

The Foundation’s founder and director, Stephen Smith, says that the organisation was formed based on the immediate and long-term empowerment needs of communities. In order to realise this, the Foundation initiated the following projects:

> Welfare Projects
> Children and Youth Projects
> Computer Training Courses
> Community Authorised Microsoft Refurbisher
> Migrant Project
> Ad-hoc activities and initiatives

In 2005 the Foundation trained 250 members of the South African Police Service (SAPS) on computer literacy in 2005 through its Computer Training Course. The success of the programme prompted SAPS to negotiate for all station commanders across Gauteng, to also participate in the programme.

The Foundation offers the International Computer Driving Licence (ICDL), an internationally recognised computer certification programme at affordable rates.

“I completed the Computer Basic Training Course and I am now going to do the International Computer Drivers Licence,” says Adolphine Mbayabo. Mbayabo joined the Foundation as a receptionist, and provides community members with information on all the computer programmes.

The Foundation’s philosophy centres on promoting the economic and social rebirth of communities and to empower them to meet their own needs. This philosophy assumes that free handouts to communities exacerbate the problem of dependence and works against a self empowered independent mentality.

The Foundation has six full-time and five part-time staff. It also relies of the services of volunteers involved in its various projects.

Operating on a modest budget of R350 000 per annum, the Foundation transformed itself into a business oriented NGO to avoid complete dependency on donor funding. Speaking about the success of this approach, Smith points out that as a result of this shift, 85 percent of the Foundation’s budget is self-generated.

The Foundation prides itself for having proper monitoring and evaluation systems in place and has entered into an arrangement with the auditing company, Grace Hughes and Associates, to have its finances audited at no cost. “We have an outstanding accountability structure,” says Smith.

Smith believes the NGO sector is not structured to allow for proper monitoring of how charitable donations are spent. In light of this, the Foundation operates with the view that a lack of proper monitoring and evaluation systems within the sector creates room for NGO leaders to mismanage donor funds.

He shares anecdotes about NGO leaders for example, affording expensive vehicles, which he says puts into question how donor funds are utilised. He believes that the Foundation’s achievements will inspire other nonprofit organisations to utilise their funding to service the communities effectively.

Partnering for development

The Foundation’s strategy includes building partnerships with role players within the community. Through its partnership with Microsoft, it implements the Community Authorised Microsoft Refurbisher Project.

This partnership enables the Foundation to train community members to repair donated computers and install Licenced MS Software. The refurbished computers are sold to schools and nonprofit organisations at an affordable rate. The Foundation is planning to include technical computer training courses such as A+ and N+ in the future.

In another partnership the Foundation, in association with the University of the Witwatersrand Language School, started the English Language Project which teaches adults English language skills. Participants receive a University of Witwatersrand Certificate.

In recognition of the Foundation’s diverse range of social outreach programmes, it was nominated as a finalist in the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) Community Builder of the Year in 2007. In the same year, Smith was nominated as a finalist in the Computer Society of South Africa’s IT Personality of the Year. Stephen Smith and his wife, Marian, who also works for the Foundation, were also appointed honorary lecturers in the Wits University Language School in 2007. In 2006, the Foundation was nominated as a finalist in the Ashoka Changemakers Innovation Awards. (Southern Courier, 10 October 2007)

The Foundation’s strategic focus from 2008 and beyond is to expand its Computer Training Projects to all the nine provinces. In doing this, it has already established one computer training branch in Pretoria and another on in Soweto. These computer training branches are owned and managed by the community.

Papillon is now also searching for an international and reputable computer company to partner in this worthy cause.

Find out more about Papillon at:


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