Jennifer Chetty is the founder and director of Sinika Uthando, a community based organisation, providing counselling and life-coaching. In addition to this, Sinika Uthando are accredited with the wholesale and retail Sector Education and Training (SETA) and offers a job creation programme. Tabloid Newspapers had a chance to speak to Chetty during the busy holiday break to find out more about her and her organisation.
Tabloid Newspapers (TN): How did the the organisation Sinika Uthando come about? Jennifer Chetty (JC): “Sinika Uthando means to give love. It was born out of a place where I realized that love changes everything. Love gives guidance, help and so we founded the centre 10 years ago in order to change lives. I am an ex-police captain and spent 23-years of my life working for the police. We were always trying to make sure that people abide by the laws. As time progressed, I realized that I should move onto something where I can help equip people for change. We aim to give love from God’s heart.
TN: Please elaborate on the work which Sinika Uthando does?
JC: Sinika Uthando was formed 10-years-ago. I was the visionary and the founder of the organisation. The organisation was established with the view to empowering women and to create a safe haven for women who were dealing with domestic violence and abuse. We also wanted to become a safe haven for children and a space where people could come and talk about issues and receive guidance. It took a turnaround after a couple of years because God began to send a lot of young people to me. Some of these people were abusing drugs, alcohol and having behavioural issues. We expanded and became a support group to allow young people to rehabilitate from drugs. We sent them to various rehabilitation centres and run programmes for them and try to connect them with churches, temples and religious leaders.
As time went on, we realized that something more than just rehabilitating people needed to be done. This was when we saw that there was a severe lack of employment. We began to teach life-skills about attitude and life. We then became an accredited training provider because we realized that training was not enough. We are now an accredited training provider which is providing employment for unemployed youth together with women and children empowerment as well as job readiness programmes. Our key focus is employment.
TN: Do you think that your past involvement with the South African Police Service has helped you with this work and if so how?
JC: I owe the South African Police Service everything because they were the basis of my training. I served the community through my position within the police. I served as a community liaison officer or as a spokesperson for the commissioners. It gave me a lot of opportunity to work within communities. I got to see and enforce the law and empower people. My tenure with the police has provided me with most of the foundation of my training.
TN: As the director of the organisation,what does your day to day duties entail?
JC: We have a busy programme running. We run accredited courses. I look for funding and find people to fund unemployed youth on learnerships. We offer these learnerships to deserving young people that want to be trained with accredited programmes. For example, I am running a programme for 40 unemployed youth. They are unemployed and some may and may not have finished matric. We put them through a life skills and job readiness program and ultimately they move into the database of people that have the right attitude and that want to study further and develop themselves.
From there, we have been given a grant to do a learnership for 40 unemployed youth. Our staff has been increased by 40 individuals. They do their work experience with us. We are presently training supervisors and managers. It is hard to take unemployed youth and make them employable.
My core staff generally performing mentoring and guiding, streamline young people in terms of completing their portfolios. They recruit unemployed people from their areas and bring them to us to complete work experience.
We run job readiness programmes. A lot of companies, small businesses around us take entry level staff from us. We have made inroads with businesses and many companies come to us for employees. We also run computer schools educate on life-skills.
TN: What are some exciting projects which Sinika Uthando has embarked on during the previous 12 months?
JC: We recently did a placard demonstration during the 16 Days of Activism period to highlight the prevalence of abuse within the community. We have a programme which started 10 years ago called Soul Sisters. This brings together women who have been through abuse or who have been through a divorce who are now healed. Women who are part of Soul Sisters meet once every three months to support each other and connect to each other. This creates support structures if they are going through a difficult period.
We hold an annual Women’s Day event where we have past members of the organisation in attendance. We have at least two graduations a month for people who have gained skills through our organisation.
TN: Can you elaborate on some of the big aims of the organisation going forward?
JC: One of our greatest achievements is that we have survived 10 years. A lot of NGO’s do not last this long due to a lack of funding. Another great achievement of ours is that we have become an accredited training provider. There are not a lot of accredited training providers that are NGO’s. We are the first to meet the unemployed youth, abused and rehabilitated people.
Going forward, we have applied for other accreditations. I hope that we can run learnerships every week and every day in the future. This will help us to to reduce unemployment, poverty and achieve our slogan of “at least one job for one home’’.
TN: Sinika Uthando has a solid volunteer base which is something that many community based organisations struggle with. How has Sinika Uthando managed to maintain a solid volunteer base?
JC: We empower people to better things for themselves. When you deal with issues which affect the heart of people, they are connected to stay. We have had a lot of people come and go but we have also had a lot stay. The core of the staff have come through to us for help with unemployment, drugs and other issues and have stayed. We have a lot of support on board, including from attorneys, doctors, pastors, priests, housewives and many others who we are appreciative towards.
TN: Unemployment is very high in the community among youth. Do you have any advice for unemployed youth?
JC: One thing that youth must realize is that there is not a lack of jobs. There is a lack of employable youth which means that youth are not yet ready to be employed.
There are certain things which companies are looking for which many young people have not grasped yet. Young people who are unemployed should get onto databases with opportunities which are available. They should find programmes to help them and contact our centre.
There are a lot of opportunities available. Young people must have the opportunity to want it.