“Mann Tracht, Un Gott Lacht” as the old Yiddish saying goes,“Man Plans, and G-d Laughs.”
Thursday 2 April was set to be a very special day. The in-person launch of a very exciting project — the first of its kind for our organisation. Mensch in partnership with a Mensch Network Member Andrea Bolnick and her organisation Ikhayalami and with the generous support of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, would have launched Project Bayit! And then Covid-19 hit.
What is Project Bayit?
Project Bayit connects those in need, with those who want to help them, to build a home they can be proud of. We deal with all the admin, planning, design and construction. You and your cleaner, gardener, someone who works in your business, or simply someone you care about, agree to co-finance the building of a new home, and pay us back, 100% interest-free, over time. It’s as easy as that. All from as little as R18 500.
Forced to postpone our launch event, we feared that this project may need to be shelved until after lockdown. This would have been a great shame as what could be more poignant than the need for improved housing, when we are all ‘locked down’ in our own four walls?
“What could be more poignant than the urgent need for improved housing, when we are all ‘locked down’ in our own four walls?”
What we’ve been up to during Lockdown
Mensch approached Lockdown with a determination to stick to our overarching organisational vision and mission: to guide, support and engage Jewish community as active and impactful agents of positive change in South Africa. As many of our Mensch Network Members pivoted their activities and focus to supporting the vulnerable communities with whom they work, to access emergency aid, Mensch assisted by promoting their appeals and initiatives. One of these needs came from our Project Bayit partners, Ikhayalami.
Andrea explained that right before lockdown, a community in Gugulethu approached them after a fire destroyed 12 shacks and badly damaged another 2, leaving more than 40 people homeless – just when we were all told to go home and stay there. Mensch included this in our list of projects to support and were over the moon to attract a donation which would essentially pay for the rebuilding of 4 of the 12 homes. Awesome! But how do we rebuild only 4 of 14 homes impacted by the fire?
Re-enter Project Bayit – a phoenix rises!
Project Bayit connects ‘investors’ or ‘employers’ like you or I, who want to assist an employee or ‘home owner’ to build or upgrade their home in an informal settlement. The idea is that you both have ‘skin in the game’, both contribute to financing, supported by Project Bayit’s offering of an interest-free loan to ensure building can happen immediately.
With this model in mind, together with the donor, we re-purposed the donation to our fire appeal for Ikhayalami, engaged the new home owners and turned a ‘hand-out’ into a ‘hand-up’. These 14 households will now contribute an amount affordable to them, as the co-financers of their new homes via Project Bayit.
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