Innovation led to the founding of StreetSmart South Africa, an organisation that raises funds by working with various segments of the hospitality industry. Through participating restaurants, accommodation establishments, and wine tasting centres, Street Smart can collect donations to finance approved organisations’ programmes that aim to normalise the lives of vulnerable children.

In response to whether she has a calling that led her to becoming the Chairman of StreetSmart SA, Melanie Burke replied that she has “experienced three forms of work – a job, a career and a calling. A job pays the bills; a career is a path towards increasingly better work; a calling is work that is an important part of life and a vital part of one’s identity.”

After two decades of a successful career in banking, Melanie moved into a role that she is very passionate about, one that serves her purpose. With StreetSmart SA, Melanie can make a difference in the lives of children and create possibility.

Melanie discusses the difficulties she faces in South Africa and how she works to tame them.

“The legacy of Apartheid is still very apparent in our daily lives. I am challenged by the breakdown in the fabric of society and the lack of community and ubuntu. I am concerned that instead of building our nation and coming together as a people, we have focussed too much on things that divide us rather than on opportunities for connection. I am challenged by injustice and inequality and how this impacts children and young people in our country.

I am privileged to be able to contribute positively to overcoming these challenges through the work that we do at StreetSmart as well as the opportunities I have to teach adults and young people skills and behaviours to help enable resilience and confidence. Furthermore, I try to be a good example of the work that I do in the areas of leadership, innovation, entrepreneurship, education and the performing arts.”

Improving the future of South Africa requires sustainable change and people who have a passion for our country. StreetSmart SA is steadily helping NGOs help our communities, starting with children living on the street or at risk of living on the street.

“StreetSmart is a community initiative because although we have a national footprint, our impact is made locally, in each area of operation. Nationally, our fundraising partners have embraced the concept of responsible giving. It costs nothing to run StreetSmart, and we invite anyone to join our amazing local community of people who are enabling the public to make a difference, R5 at a time.

While the true extent of the number of children living on the streets in South Africa is unknown, there are at least 250 000 children of school-going age who are not at school, 2,8 million orphaned children and 11,6 million children living below the poverty line according to the South African Child Gauge 2019 of the Child Institute at the University of Cape Town.

South Africa is the most unequal society in the world, and the problem of children living and begging on our streets is growing. At StreetSmart we work towards arresting this scourge and getting children back to school, their families and communities. It costs nothing for a restaurant, accommodation establishment or wine tasting venue to run StreetSmart and it offers guests an easy way to do good while they are having a good time.

Starting from humble beginnings in June 2005 with 10 Cape Town restaurants raising R1 644, StreetSmart has grown to 100 partner establishments and has disbursed over R1 million per year for the past six years to beneficiary organisations. Expanding steadily from year to year, StreetSmart is currently represented in 12 towns and cities in the Western Cape, Garden Route and Gauteng.

Communities where StreetSmart partner establishments are situated benefit directly from this initiative as all donations received stay in the area and are utilised for local upliftment programmes.”

Every cent raised goes to selected local beneficiaries.

“The funds raised in your local area go to organisations that run education, skills training and family reunification programmes for street children and children at risk of living and working on the streets. StreetSmart ensures that every cent donated by our local partners directly benefits the local beneficiaries. This way you contribute to the efforts to normalise the lives of vulnerable children in your local area.”

We can all make a difference. Each person has the ability to help our communities thrive.

“Nelson Mandela once said, ‘I was not a messiah, but an ordinary man who had become a leader because of extraordinary circumstances. I do not want to be presented as some deity. I would like to be remembered as an ordinary human being with virtues and vices.’

We are all capable of making a contribution, and we all have the potential to be ordinary people who become leaders because of extraordinary circumstances. We can focus on making small changes, doing small kindnesses and lead right from where we are. And then keep going, don’t give up.”

You do not yet know how great you can be or how significant an impact you can make.

“I would encourage someone who feels like they have lost hope by reminding them of the words by Anne Frank ‘Everyone has inside them a piece of good news. The good news is you don’t know how great you can be! How much you can love! What you can accomplish and what your potential is.’”

Find out more about StreetSmart SA, see their official partners, donate or get in touch via their website here: https://streetsmartsa.org.za/