"It's good to care and to share" - is the motto of Heike Ellwanger, founder of the association Care&Share&Smile-e.V.
“30 years of passion for slums, shantytowns and dirty places all over the world were increasingly fostered through a business trip to South Africa in January 2011 and I found myself unable to resist the South African virus”, says Heike Ellwanger. It instantly became clear to her: “I gotta help here – I really gotta help!” It seemed not enough to her to simply donate money that would not achieve its purpose due to administration effort. She drew a drastic conclusion; she wanted to organize something that people could really profit from Two weeks after her return she closed down her own well-established business, went back to South Africa and fully addressed herself to the project “Help South Africa”. “I have been over the moon with South Africa since my very first visit. As a photo journalist I have been to many places and I have seen a lot: from Brazilian shantytowns to Indian slums in Mumbay. However, South Africa was special right from the start.
Heike Ellwanger was surprised the people’s will to live in harmony, a people affected by South Africa’s political past and the Apartheid. The problematic nature of past politics has still been an issue in many respects. “The people are proud of the change in their beloved and united South Africa. Nevertheless, great poverty and high unemployment rates still persist. The people want to help each other, the always try, but they are financially and organizationally unable to do so.”
During her journey through South African townships Heike found herself emotionally attached to a special place; Knysna is a paradise-like town of lagoons and adjacent townships. She spent several months in Knysna and from then on regularly visited the town for longer periods of time. “My first two months in Knysna were an emotional rollercoaster – heaven and hell at the same time.” After a short period she swirled through many social projects and showered the people with ideas, energy and high-voltage activity to optimize the running projects and to put her own ideas for new projects into being. Thereby she uncovered discrepancies and loopholes in the profit-driven world of charity and battled with the community on a political level. Her desire for more led to her search for the ‘true angels’. “I met important people who have committed themselves to charitable purposes with great devotion for a long time. I visited the townships every day and I saw many fates that affected me deeply. I was told pretty casually that “South Africa was not for sissies”.
“On the one hand, one faces so much sorrow, helplessness and distressing fates. On the other hand, one meets remarkable who relentlessly prove total commitment for the good cause but who do not experience any support!”
Heike Ellwanger was aware that she needed a well-functioning team that lived right on site, a team that was respected by the people in the townships. However, it became clear that existing organizations hardly reasonable goals. “It is unbelievable: a great charity war prevails in South Africa. The organizations stand in each other’s way and are unwilling to cooperate. They court the donations’ and government’s favor which leads to obstacles that are encouraged by profit organizations. You cannot achieve anything all by yourself in South Africa. You need experienced people who know how the system works. What you do not need are egotistic solos of various profit-driven organizations that attempt to steal the show. Our team has successfully ensured that existing projects were optimized and further financed. In terms of charitable purposes it is important to engage with experienced people who already have achieved and accomplished something.
First and foremost our team’s task has been to improve and
support – to encourage self-help! Our goals are to support and enhance schools, to further running projects, to build up useful collaboration and to give remarkable people a hand.
Care&Share&Smile e.V. wants to deliver a decisive message:
You can read more about interesting events and exciting stories on Heike Ellwanger’s blog.