The following reflection about why top SA companies support the FBF was published by the Pretoria News in the Muthobi Foundation’s weekly “Nation Builder” editorial page column on 23 March 2016:
Having spent youthful years in a pipe band at CBC Pretoria, I could easily mistake the work of the non-profit Field Band Foundation (FBF) as being much the same thing – mainly music, with some added benefits, maybe.
Why, then, do top companies like De Beers, Anglo American, Investec, PPC Cement, and the PG Group, invest so consistently in the Foundation’s 48 township marching bands of about 125 children per band? A nice-to-have?
Nope. The real story – one these companies embrace – is much more profound. It is that the FBF’s structured performances in music-making gives youngsters from backgrounds of social and economic devastation a set of critical life skills in discipline, timekeeping, competitiveness, teamwork. They imbue a self-belief that lets them know that they matter, and that they have more choices than they might otherwise imagine. More than 40 000 of them over 20 years, with 6 500 in 2016.
It’s work specifically placed in some of our worst-off places, in bands working intensively four afternoons every week. These are in areas where it otherwise can seem that resignation, despondency, fatalism and worse are the accepted order of life.
After all, SA’s full unemployment rate is 36%, but in these places it can be 50% or higher, and often people have had no work for a decade or more. With no dole, you lose your job, and that’s that, assuming you ever had one. Right now, the SAIRR reports that about 60% of youngsters will not work a single formal job day throughout their Twenties, and what chance after that? For where all economic activity ceases, then so does social recreation, sports, schooling success, basic standards in behaviour, respect for self, admiration of elders, and on.
These are, to put it mildly, “very hard places”, as CEO Nicky du Plessis reminded the Foundation at end-2015: “These are sometimes whole communities where disappointment is an inter-generational mentor, where the soul tastes defeat in every form, and where people’s souls die by inches. Gangsters become symbols of action.
“These places are where we will form up, raise South Africa’s flag, and march. They are our reason. Winning the battle-of-the-role-model is our programme to liberation and widening horizons; a victory that comes in many parts”.
That battle means them emphasising ethics, insisting on discipline because young people are worth it, demanding excellence, teaching values-based life practices (which has helped destroy HIV’s grip, down from 20% of Field Band members two decades back, to today’s 0,1%). And some members get extra training in Norway and the US each year.
Field Band officers watch with eagle eye for the children being beaten senseless or raped in homes given over to darkness; or who have little more than the shirt on their back; or are always without any shoes; or – as happens – have begun starvation’s descent.
That’s when the FBF operation called “Children in Distress” kicks in – with targeted food-to-home shipments, psycho-social interventions, policing, clothing, counselling, household visits – individual missions that have had to triple in number these past 18 months.
Just last year that meant 825 special home interventions; 723 members individually cared for; and emergency succour reaching them and their families: 2 892 people in all.
It underlined a January reminder to all operations: “Our young and our country are calling us, and we know we are equal to this. That is our duty”.
It is why we should all sit up and notice a remarkable thing. It is a thing that matters because we aren’t witness here to the lazily stereotypical story of the crumpled-African-child-in-the-dust-covered-with-flies.
Instead, we are witness to thousands of young South Africans, backed by some of our top companies, parading across SA’s Fields of Despair; utterly changing their and our reality. They scorn defeat in a profoundly consequential credit to their country and to their generation. They are South Africa’s Field Band story, and they’re darned fine companies who march alongside them.
Thanks to special grants made for this purpose by the De Beers Group of Companies – primary supporter of the Field Band Foundation since 2006 – a commission of one of SA’s most thoughtful photographers of socio-economic imagery, Durban-based Angela Buckland, affords some sharing of her insights about how the Foundation, made flesh by band members, works day-to-day.
In this project, Ms. Buckland spent time in early 2016 (24/7) with various members of the three Ponahalo De Beers Field Bands in the Free State’s Parys, Viljoenskroon, and near the De Beers Voorspoed Diamond Mines (Kroonstad). She shared the full gamut of the days of individual band members and their families of differing context, including some of disability. The resultant “day-in-the-life” portraits are drawn into phases whose starkness can hide their deeper revelations – but not for long.
An unusual triumph, we are now witness to a deeply significant offering, every bit more compelling thanks to its empathetic curiosity, acknowledgement of limits to seeing, marker of telling nuance, and understated respect for subject, all with a quiet agape love. The Foundation is pleased to share this representative sample of the project’s work with you through our Report to Society, and commends De Beers for making that happen.
To purchase a full set of this unique collection, please contact Angela Buckland on email@example.com.
The Foundation’s public reporting is one element of an FBF communication effort that involves specialists from across the media industry coming together in what might be the strongest collection of comms talent backing a cause in SA. The FBF Report to Society is the latest example of what this means.
Indeed, to accurately capture the Foundation’s story into a single publication and to keep it as an accurate, easy-to-grasp rendering of complex work takes special care. In this, we are truly fortunate to receive outstanding publication design and production, pro bono, from the top class creative and design team of Ogilvy & Mather, Durban, communications partners to the FBF in all print media products.
Pictured here are the Ogilvy wunderkinder who raised the bar in presentation of SA non-profit company reporting, with the 2015-2016 Report to Society of the Field Band Foundation.
The Foundation is profoundly grateful for the professional communications support it receives pro bono from Durban’s Ogilvy & Mather (print media, outdoor branding), Mariannhill Media (website, e-zine, social media, mailing database), VWV brand managers (video), ArtGecko (event design, brand custodianship), Campbell & Campbell (public relations), Investec communications department (electronic FBF member advisories), De Beers public & corporate affairs, WHAM! Media (external message design). These experts form a virtual communications team of the highest calibre. We salute them.
This year’s Report to Society tells of the sometimes hard realities of our community lives. It also tells of how the Foundation responds to these, including through the PULSE! partnership with the Norwegian Band Federation, funded by FK Norway.
This programme works with a holistic understanding of community health. It allows the broader community development benefits of music to be more clearly identifiable to participants, helping them to develop relevant ways of operating at band level to greatest positive developmental effect in all facets of their lives.
PULSE! uses strong elements of knowledge-sharing in its approach. Participants from South Africa and Norway on the programme learn about and teach in each other’s communities, both benefitting from their own unique societal experiences in challenges of diversity, cross-cultural integration, working with disability, and related issues of social inclusion. The practical benefits of these learnings are taken in structured training to communities where Field Bands operate. PULSE! teams are currently living and working in Gauteng, Free State and Northern Cape communities of greatest challenge.
In the Free State, this work focuses on reducing barriers to inclusion for Field Band members living with disabilities (with Ponahalo De Beers making additional investments to enable these De Beers-linked Field Bands to support these members). Thus, of the Viljoenskroon Field Band’s 286 members, 25 are living with disabilities of varying type; while this applies to 55 children of the 173 Kroonstad Field Band members, and 45 members of the 260-strong Parys Field Band
Highlights of the 2015-2016 Report to Society include:
With professional editorial direction by WHAM! Media, artwork and production by Ogilvy & Mather (Durban), and oversight by the Foundation’s independent directors, auditors KPMG, and FBF senior management, the FBF Report to Society strives to public accountability of the highest standards. We hope that this year’s Report sets a new bar for excellence in stakeholder reporting by South African non-profit companies.
The Report to Society covers our financial, administrative, governance, managerial and operational activities, and is guided by both legal requirements and best practice company reporting guidelines. We trust that you will find it both informative and useful, and we would welcome any suggestions or other feedback you may have, on firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you would like to receive a printed copy of the 2015-2016 Report to Society, then please send your name and postal address to the Foundation’s PR administrator, Sello Ramosepele, on email@example.com.
The Field Band Foundation salutes
It is with profound sadness that the Field Band Foundation marks the death earlier today of its co-founder and Honorary Life President, Mr. Bertie Lubner.
From our very beginnings in 1997, Bertie has been an active and involved supporter of the Foundation’s outreach to more than 40 000 children of disadvantage across South Africa. Through this time, he personified active citizenship, humane caring for people less privileged, consistent optimism in positive outcomes, and diligence in helping to direct the Foundation’s growth. His was the most emphatic example of tenacity in the face of every kind of challenge, and with this came telling examples of inspiring courage, right to the last.
Bertie Lubner never tired of being delighted by Field Bands and was always supportive of this endeavor to the common good. He urged us on, refused any options of retreat, and never stopped enjoying the magic that he helped to create with young dancers and musicians. He was, in the idiom, “a mensch”.
In February this year, and despite his worsening health, Bertie insisted on attending the Field Band Foundation’s national championships in Soweto with his ever-supportive wife, Hillary. Not only did they stay for the entire four-hour event, but Bertie was on the field as much as possible – close and personal with participants, as was his style. Here was a man who took great pleasure in being immersed in the music and movement of youngsters who were grabbing life’s opportunities in the best ways possible.
He was delighted at the surprise rendition of “Happy Birthday” played in his honour by the band he was most long associated with – the founding PFG Londulusha Field Band of Springs. And, with that chuckling, twinkling, grin that was a trademark, he had a surprise in return: “Ha! Let’s play it again!”
That’s our Bertie.
And for him we will play again and again, in an expansion of horizons of opportunity for young people right across South Africa. We honour his memory as we do.
Rest in peace, dear Bertie – a true son of our soil.
Mervyn Gavin: Financial Manager
The Field Band Foundation NPC (FBF) is delighted to announce the appointment of Mervyn Gavin (36) (BCompt and Auditing Articles) as Financial Manager. Mervyn has served in a number of senior financial management positions prior to joining the Foundation.
“Working in the non-profit sector will bring an extra dimension to my work and be very rewarding to me”, says Mervyn. “The Foundation is one of very few non-profit companies that consistently delivers an unqualified audit. This speaks to the integrity and discipline of its financial management. The board has asked me to now ensure that we extract maximum value from every rand that is donated and that our control and reporting systems are bullet proof. My first task is to conduct a ‘top-to-bottom’ operational review to ensure that every cent is tracked and accounted for.”
Nicky du Plessis, the Foundation’s CEO, also announced the appointment of Burns & Acutt Accounting as financial advisors to the company.
“Our board is already passionate about fiduciary responsibilities. Now I have daily access to the brightest financial minds in the sector. This combination will ensure that we deliver best value to our beneficiaries and set new standards of compliance and reporting for our donors and sponsors,” she said.
David Thatanelo April joins the senior management level of the FBF as Strategic Education Advisor, providing guidance and leadership to the newly consolidated FBF education team. April’s work has been instrumental in spreading first-in-class arts & culture training in SA and internationally for more than 15 years; from his activation of school outreach programmes for Moving into Dance Mophatong through to conducting teacher development workshops for Arts & Culture teachers for the Gauteng Department of Education (see http://www.davidapril.co.za for more detail).
He will be working with the FBF’s education team to ensure implementation of the Foundation’s unique integrated arts and leadership curricula that have been developed over six years with the help of the Norwegian Band Federation.
The FBF is committed to providing continual skills transfer to all 24 Field Band leadership teams that are situated throughout the country. This education will include training tutors to become accountable as role models for their band members in music and dance, as well as in life-skills training.
April will be working with the ROOTS team of Odd-Erik Nordberg, Ragnhild Sandbakk and Tor Age Schunemann, along with FBF facilitator-in-training Nomkhosi Mnisi, based at the Foundation’s head office in Rivonia.
– Issued by Field Band Foundation public affairs, 7 March 2016.