What started as a part- time outreach programme, helping less fortunate children with their homework, has turned into the dream of opening a full-time care centre for poor and abused youngsters in Walmer Township.
To make this happen, Duwayne Putter is working around the clock.
Putter, 22, is among the nominees for the Herald Citizen of the Year award, and hopes to be among the handful of extraordinary people to be selected as a finalist in this year’s Youth Category.
Two years ago, while visiting friends in Walmer Township, Putter became aware of the difficult circumstances facing the youth of one of Port Elizabeth’s poorest areas.
“I realised that upwards of 70 000 people live in this area where drug and alcohol abuse, as well as physical abuse, is rampant. I was unsure where to start, but I knew I had to do something,” he said.
And so the idea of the Come Learn Educational and Youth Development Centre started to form, and a year ago his non-profit organisation was officially registered.
The Lawson Brown High School alumnus worked as an English tutor and started by identifying groups of pupils for additional tutoring in whatever subjects they were struggling with.
This grew into youth empowerment workshops for matriculants from the area, assisting them with basic skills such as how to approach job interviews.
As time passed, Putter identified more needs in the community, expanding his outreach programmes where he could.
“Currently we provide 40 households with things like toiletries, pap and other basic necessities,” he said.
“We partner with other NPOs, like creches and care centres in the township, to try to alleviate their needs, and we host monthly soup kitchens in areas where we identify a real need.”
All of this is done from the garage space he is borrowing from his father at their Westering home.
Putter also assists families who have been victims of shack fires, helping them to replace crucial documents they might have lost, and he works with a qualified social worker who handles cases where Putter identifies possible abuse.
His projects have become so consuming that he left his job as a tutor two months ago to focus solely on his NPO.
“The dream is to move out of my father’s garage and open an actual care centre in the township, with full-time staff.
“Funds are tight, but we are confident that we can achieve this goal.”
Putter will be hosting a fundraiser this weekend, in the form of a ladies’ tea at the Grand Hotel, in the hopes of securing donations, but also to network with influential people from Port Elizabeth.
He hopes to secure not only investors, but possible partners who could assist him to realise his dream.
Walmer Township resident Loyiso Mafele, a close friend of Putter’s, nominated him for the Citizen of the Year award.
“Duwayne is always giving back to those who don’t have. His NPO, tutoring disadvantaged children, the way he helps fire victims and his assistance to other NPOs are just some of the ways he reaches out to the Walmer Township community,” Mafele said.
“He is a true example of what a hero is.”