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Partners for Possibility

PfP Blog Tribute to Molly Blackburn

My mother Molly Blackburn was best  known for her work in the Eastern Cape standing up against the apartheid regime. As someone who took the side of the the under dog, and was appalled by the gross in-equalities in our country. She listened to the youth who had been shot or detained by security police. She was a mother to many who were detained. I have memories of her telling me how she had had a call from a mother desperate to find her child. Molly said to me ‘Well I just I popped in un-announced to one of the PE jails, walking around calling the missing child’s name.’ She told me how she  heard the response…MOLLY MOLLY…I’M HERE. 
Molly was also a mother of 7 children and a loving sister and wife. There was always a bit of chaos in our  family home. With 7 of us children, all at different stages of our lives, there was no such thing as ‘ my room’ in our house….the minute one of us left for boarding school or university the next youngest would decide to spread their wings and up-grade to the nicer room. At one stage I returned from overseas, to find there was no bedroom for me. My mother simply moved a bed onto the stoep, which became my quiet refuge. 
It was amazing when we were all together, mostly at supper time-at 8 o clock on the dot. A large family table, always candle lit. Looking back on it I think my mother was preparing us for our future of load shedding. We were a tight knit family, but the doors were always open. 
Many nights of the week we would have to FHB which is short for family hold back on supper portions, and add extra place settings to the table. 
In those days many of the guests were out of towners, having come to PE for meetings with no where to stay. Helen Susman, Colin Eglin and many others were frequently invited for supper. So too was Matthew Goniwe, and who ever else was with him. 
In Port Elizabeth in the early 1980’s  it was un-heard of for an African person to walk in the front door of a white persons home, let alone stay for supper and sleep over. As you can imagine, our 
family was excluded from many social gatherings in Port Elizabethnot subtle disapproval of Mollys involvement in the struggle
So I would like to share some stories of Mollys work.
The first Molly heard of the Langa Massacre on 21st March 85 was from her sister, my aunt Judy Chalmers  who had taken a  call at Mollys home. She was asked to relay the message ’Tell her to come. They are killing our people’ 
By the time Molly got to Uitenhage the road blocks were up They made their way to Maduna Road…..there was huge tension with fully armed police, live ammunition and no riot gear. The community, angry and poised to retaliate.  Molly knelt on the ground and said ‘Let us Prey’ Everyone knelt down and disaster was averted. 
She spent the next 3 days trying to find the 71 people missing in this clash, documenting, capturing and meticulously recording her findings. By sharing her well documented reports with the overseas journalists and local press she gave voice to the voice less. She had a natural gift for providing news worthy statements and established useful contacts with overseas embassies and the press. Because of this publicity there was a serious shadow cast over the government.
It was June 1985 that Matthew Goniwe’s wife called Molly to tell her he had not returned home. His burnt out car was eventually found near the PE/Grahamstown road….Molly had worked tirelessly with Matthew helping him form civic organisations that  gave them a framework to have an effective voice. She empowered the communities to legally resist….something they had had no idea how to do. They were individuals being bullied by a strong force. Molly showed them how to organise themselves into effective structures. It gave them the weapon they desperately needed. She was tireless. I know she came close to despair quite often but she refused to give up
One young man in Cradock summed it up like this
’They are coming with us, they don’t just give us their ideas, they come along with us in our struggles. Molly Blackburn, Helen 
Susman, Judy Chalmers, all these old ladies-we call them our mothers’  She was often referred to as MAMA MOLLY. 
So Molly created a legacy. I say this because when she died on the 28th December 1985, 20 000 people attended her funeral. In Cradock there was not enough transport organised-people were up in arms “ I have to go-why is there no transport’ Word was sent out-the next morning every available car in Cradock was in PE for the funeral.The funeral was completely peaceful-a day of extraordinary harmony.
At her funeral I sat in the front row of St Johns church . Mollys coffin was surrounded by about 10 young men and women shoulder to shoulder all of their fists held high in  salute. They acknowledged the contribution that Molly, a white woman from a completely different background, had made. She consciously chose to make a difference, to choose a path that required enormous courage and self sacrifice. She was a Warrior for Peace.
I would like to challenge you all to take action-decide what is going to be your voice. Recognise you will have to step out of your comfort zone. You too can choose to leave a legacy. 
In the words of Nelson Mandela 
“the fight against Apartheid liberated all South Africans-Africans Coloureds Indians and Whites.
The struggle for gender equality will benefit both men and women. The prosperous future to which we aspire calls for a united front of all South Africans across both the colour and gender divides.”
30 November -1, 00:00

PfP Blog Tribute and good bye to Bizie Magwaza

To my dear friend, my rock, the person who has been constant in my life for the last 4 years, who I could always count on.

When I met Bizi Magwaza in 2016, she was principal of Mshwati Memorial - a remote rural school in upper Tongaat.

30 November -1, 00:00

PfP Blog Scholarship opportunity for high school learners

 PfP urges secondary school principals in its network to encourage qualifying learners to take advantage of this unmissable opportunity

The Federated Employers’ Mutual (FEM) Education Foundation* has partnered with the Make A Difference (MAD) Leadership Foundation** to make available education and leadership opportunities to talented learners in South Africa. Due to PfP’s association with both these organisations, high school learners within the PfP network now have the option of early access to the MAD scholarship opportunity.

30 November -1, 00:00

PfP Blog Symphonia for South Africa announces two new key appointments

After an extensive search, Symphonia for SA is delighted to welcome two members to its leadership team

Komala Pillay: PfP Programme Director

30 November -1, 00:00

PfP Blog PfP launches second book

Symphonia for South Africa is delighted to announce the release of Partners for Possibility: Stories of Impact, the second instalment of the decade-long journey of South Africa’s very own business-education innovation

In celebration of this release, PfP will host a series of launches via Zoom to share some of the stories of impact featured in the 38 chapters of the book.

30 November -1, 00:00

PfP Blog Symphonia for South Africa’s COVID-19 response: adaptive, responsive and attuned to the needs of its community

When the national lockdown in South Africa was first declared in March 2020, we embarked on a range of new activities in response to some of our community’s most pressing needs

Emergency food relief

30 November -1, 00:00

PfP Blog Business leaders inspire change through ground-breaking PfP initiative

In marking #10YearsofPfPImpact, Symphonia for South Africa calls on business leaders in Durban, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Saldanha Bay and Johannesburg to contribute to education by joining its Partners for Possibility (PfP) leadership development and principal support programme.

The PfP programme was created to empower school principals who have not been sufficiently well prepared for the demands and challenges of leading an under-resourced school. Within 10 years, the programme has reached over 1,250 schools across all nine of South Africa’s provinces and has touched the lives of over a million learners.

30 November -1, 00:00

PfP Blog Food relief drive reaches thousands in need

A collaboration between Symphonia for South Africa, FoodForward SA and the Solidarity Fund has seen around 8,000 food parcels distributed to over 30,000 people across several provinces in South Africa during the lockdown period

Since the lockdown was declared in March, Symphonia for SA has worked with a number of other organisations to tackle South Africa’s food security challenge. Through its Food 4 Hungry Children project, Symphonia for SA has obtained and captured data on the food needs of learners and their families from its network of over 1,000 school principals.

FoodForward SA, which reduces hunger in South Africa by recovering quality surplus food and distributing it to community organisations, has scaled up its operations during the lockdown to reach millions of at-risk households in vulnerable communities across the country.

30 November -1, 00:00

PfP Blog Unsung heroes: Port Elizabeth principals, parents and community at forefront of food distribution efforts at their schools

The principals of Sapphire Road Primary and Enqileni Senior Primary say that the distribution of much-needed food parcels to learners and families has brought parents and community members closer to their schools.

The two PE schools received a total of 300 food parcels during May in a food relief drive led by education and leadership NPO, Symphonia for South Africa (SSA), together with Pick n Pay’s Feed the Nation campaign.

SSA is an NPO founded to mobilise active citizenship around the significant issues facing South Africa. This is achieved by enabling cross-sectoral collaboration, incubating thought leadership and initiating future-focused programmes to facilitate nation-building. As an internationally recognised and award-winning social enterprise, SSA is supported by many dedicated individuals who generously contribute their money, time and skills. This support has enabled the organisation to engage collaboratively with multiple stakeholders in the private, public and civil society sectors.

30 November -1, 00:00

PfP Blog PfP principal goes above and beyond to ensure learners don’t go hungry

The national lockdown has left many of the most vulnerable without food. The learners and families of Blouvlei LSEN (Learners with Special Educational Needs) School in Retreat, Cape Town, have not been spared this struggle.

But the love and leadership of Principal Cordelia Romes Davids, coupled with the generosity of NPOs and businesses, has ensured that her learners’ stomachs – and hearts – are full.

Symphonia for South Africa first became aware of the plight of Blouvlei LSEN’s learners when Davids voiced her concerns via Symphonia for SA’s Food 4 Children WCape WhatsApp group.

30 November -1, 00:00


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