Born to help less fortunate

GIFT OF EDUCATION: Zaanri Sharp, 21, is a Citizen of the Year youth category finalist Picture: EUGENE COETZEE
GIFT OF EDUCATION: Zaanri Sharp, 21, is a Citizen of the Year youth category finalist

Youth category finalist had first taste of charity work at just seven

When one pictures a seven year- old girl, dolls and imaginary tea parties are what comes to mind – but for Zaanri Sharp, raising funds for her underprivileged peers was how she preferred to pass the time.

Now, at the age of 21, she continues to live by the ideals her parents instilled in her: “If you don’t plant a tree while young, you won’t have shade when you are older.” Sharp is a Herald GM Citizen of the Year youth category finalist.

The NMMU BA Media Communications and Culture student was introduced to charity work 14 years ago after being crowned Little Miss Petite SA.

Her looks may have bagged her the crown, but it was her generous heart that led her into charity work – something she is still passionate about.

“My mom worked for the Department of Education in Uitenhage and I would often tag along when she visited the various schools,” Sharp said yesterday.

“We visited a school in Thornhill. I was so shocked to see that these pupils had nothing – no tables, no stationery. I told my mom: ‘This is my project’.”

With both parents in education and her grandfather a former teacher, it is not surprising education captured Sharp’s attention.

Together with popular local fashion designer Johan Wolmarans and Quinne Brown of 7de Laan fame, at the age of seven she put on a fashion show which raised enough funds to paint and fully stock a classroom at Thornhill Primary School.

The fundraiser was broadcast on the SABC news and to this day Sharp carries the clip with her on her phone.

“I was so proud,” she said.

When her reign came to an end, she wanted to continue to help the needy.

“I organised high teas and mother-and-daughter teas to raise money. “But it was tough. No one wants to give money to an eightyear -old,” she laughed.

Sharp began selling handmade goods at markets, such as the then very popular K-TV Market Day at the Boardwalk

“I made clay fairies and I even dressed up as a fairy. Then one year I made bears that people could dress up themselves.”

At the age of 11, her stall was spotted and she was invited to fly to Johannesburg as part of Absa Bank’s kiddy business initiative, Tomorrow’s Captains.

She came third and used her prize money to buy a printer.

“I started printing things for schools. I realised the gift of education is the most important gift a child can receive. They will carry it with them forever.”

She now makes educational boxes filled with laminated numbers, letters of the alphabet and words in English, Afrikaans and Xhosa as part of her literacy programme for pre-primary and Grade 1 pupils.

“It is costing me a lot so I want to attract [sponsors]. I am hoping the project will go national,” she said.

Sharp has also been involved in Imfundo Educare in Malabar, teaching drama to the underprivileged, and donating toiletry packs to abused women.

On Youth Day last year she joined Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality to host a “Champions of the Future” show, where her drama pupils performed rhythmic gymnastics, dance and drama.

She also took part in the Sway In The Bay ballroom dancing contest in aid of MTR Smit Children’s Haven last year.

MTR Smit head Dr Crystal Watson said Sharp was a very special, talented young woman.

“To her, charity comes first.”

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