THERE are few people who would swop their cushy corporate jobs for ones that pay less and make a difference in communities.
But that is exactly what Neil Campher did when he decided to “take a year off” from his job and offer his entrepreneurial skills to the Helenvale community.
Three years later, he is still at it.
Campher , who lives in Seaview with his wife Prilene and children Lindsay, 6, and Angelic, 2, left his executive director position at Ukuvula Investment Holdings three years ago and became project manager at the Northern Areas People Development Initiative (Napdi).
Now he has reached rock star status in Helenvale, with children running after his car in the Northern Areas suburb.
“Apart from coming close to the people of the area, my motivation is to show them that things like this are possible,” Campher said.
“I want to show what you can do when the people understand what you’re trying to do. You need to get the community involved.”
Campher said they had received R1-million from the office of the premier for the project.
He oversees the Helenvale Recycling Initiative, which aims to decrease the high level of unemployment and the high poverty rate in the area. He said Helenvale had an 80% unemployment rate, and only a 9% matric pass rate.
He said Helenvale, with its 38 streets, had 65 illegal dumping sites.
“We are raising awareness about the illegal dumping issue and creating jobs – 60% to 70% of waste in the area is recyclable.
“We asked residents where they see the Northern Areas in 10 years through our North Star Initiative. They all said they see a beautiful and clean area. They all identified illegal dumping as one of the big problems,” he said.
Campher believes the increase in illegal dumping is as a result of the wheelie bins used instead of refuse plastic bags.
“The plastic bags were first reduced, then the rubbish started being collected once in two weeks compared to once a week. The wheelie bins are not meant to cover great areas. They end up being used for other things,” he said.
“There’s a crisis. I have been calling companies around the country to supply us with refuse bags.” He said they would be giving the group R200000 in tranches to start up their own businesses.
Rebecca Windvogel, one of the participants, spoke highly of Campher .
“It has been a privilege to work with Neil and to be a part of this project. It has opened many doors for us in Helenvale.”
Bonita Uithaler said: “He has really helped us a lot. I learnt about being the change I want to see in others. I enjoy working with him. He is a cool guy.”
The project is also endorsed by the Mandela Bay Development Agency, the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Municipality waste and environment department, Coca-Cola Fortune, Gelvandale Spar, Famhealth Medical and Business Centre, Metro Security, Uitenhage Despatch Development Initiative and other businesses.