Spreading goodwill

Social entrepreneur Takalani Dube is a church minister with a purpose. She and her husband Vusi, who is also a pastor, founded the Ethekwini Community Church whose more than 20000 followers are growing by the day.

As well as spreading the word of God, the couple equip people with much-needed skills to deal with the social ills that are compromising the development of black communities in South Africa.

Dube, who is also a medical doctor, says while she worked as a general practitioner she was very troubled by the number of people infected with HIV and Aids.

Her focus soon shifted. The soft-spoken doctor made it her priority to find a solution and she established the Centre of Hope clinic in the heart of Durban as a way of responding to the negative effect the pandemic is having, especially in poor communities.

The bright and vibrant centre, which has 20 staff members, provides training, counselling, treatment and support to hundreds of people of all classes who come for assistance.

Started in 2005, the centre relies on donations from the church and some local entrepreneurs for its survival.

Dube recently introduced a skills-development unit to empower the youth and a training course for lay counsellors to genedrate income for the centre.

The mother of two and a graduate in health services management, management of HIV in the workplace, business management and counselling, says she and her husband are not only committed to the spiritual empowerment of people, but have dedicated their lives to assisting and empowering the less privileged.

"Sometimes we lie awake at night talking and brainstorming solutions to the problems brought to our attention," Dube says.

"I'm lucky that I share the same passion with my husband."

She says while she worked as a general practitioner she realised that the HIV-Aids problem was bigger than the symptoms presented by patients when they came for consultation.

"I wanted to find the root of the problem and realised that people needed to be educated about HIV. But also that other factors such as abuse at home impacted on the person's wellbeing. I started with counselling.

"It went on to medical treatment and then shifted to prevention. It just hit me that these people shouldn't be here to be treated for HIV in the first place. So we started visiting schools, mobilising young people to love themselves," she says.

Shortly thereafter the couple started an abstinence walk campaign which was aimed at encouraging young people to abstain from sex before marriage.

The campaign is held yearly and encourages young people to live healthy lifestyles and to be positive about their lives.

Dube is pleased that the centre, which sees hundreds of people daily, has had a positive effect on the community.

"It has brought back hope to a lot of people. Since we started the campaign, we have seen a shift on how the issue of HIV has been tackled.

"People are now being given options instead of just being bombarded with condoms. There is a need to employ different strategies to deal with HIV and other social ills," Dube says.

She says one of the strategies to prevent the spread of HIV was to train people about the disease.

"If people are trained they become more responsible about their lives," she says.

She believes that HIV statistics in the province have dropped.

"There is lot of awareness now. I'd be happy if it can get to a point where people know how to take care of themselves," Dube says.

As a social entrepreneur, a pastor, a mother and a wife, Dube says she juggles the roles with ease.

"I've become a diary-based person. I make sure that Friday afternoons and Saturdays are for my children. My husband and I also make appointments to see each other. Having an understanding partner is critical. To be honest I wouldn't be where I am today if I was married to someone else.

"It also helps that we both share the same vision," Dube says with a smile.