The slogan of their organisation is ‘Piecing lives together’ – and Louise and Meyer live by these words every day. By Ncumisa Makhonjwa
‘We’ve always dreamt about making a difference and when we started dating, we decided to dedicate our lives to creating a self-sustainable orphan-care model,’ say Louise and Meyer Conradie, who run Mosaic, an organisation that aids families taking care of orphaned children in the township of Ikageng in the North West.
‘We build them a proper three-bedroom house and create jobs for the family through various Mosaic business ventures,’ says Louise. On top of all this, children helped by Mosaic attend after-school programmes every afternoon. So how did this organisation come about?
Meyer and Louise, both 28, met when they were students at North-West University. Louise studied social work and Meyer public management and political sciences. They both shared a passion for making a difference in orphans’ lives.
It was when they met Sannah Soul through mutual friends that their dream started taking shape. ‘When we met Sannah, she was taking care of five orphaned children, all in a very small one-room shack,’ they recall. ‘We realised through Sannah and our research that this was a fairly common occurrence in the local township – kids are taken in by families.’ They decided it was these pillars in the communities they wanted to empower.
Making it work
The birth of Mosaic was undoubtedly an amazing yet difficult feat for the two. They were, after all, only 21 years old when they started it. ‘We didn’t have any experience and we didn’t earn any money. Our family and friends could not understand our decision to work in the township and not make
‘It was also very difficult to get start-up funding for our dream,’ they recall. Thankfully, Louise and Meyer didn’t let all these setbacks hold them back from making a difference in the lives of the many orphaned children and their families.
Since Mosaic was established in 2008, the Conradies have erected 22 houses for foster families and helped scores of children by giving them a fighting chance at living a better life. They are fortunate enough to see most Mosaic families on a daily basis. ‘Our offices are within a 200m radius of all of our foster homes,’ says Louise. ‘Downstairs from our offices, a group of the foster parents work at Mosaic’s job-creation initiatives. We all really function like a family.’
With the amount of work they do, the couple have been lucky enough to have experienced some remarkable moments. ‘Every time a family moves from a shack into a brick house, we cry with joy,’ they say. Moments such as a child bringing their school report with drastically improved marks, or seeing their caregivers improving their lives through their business initiatives, make work at Mosaic a magical experience.
The not-so-great divide
Social development as a whole is an area that the Conradies are very passionate about. That’s why Mosaic doesn’t just focus on helping orphaned children to find foster homes, but also gives back to the community that helps raise the children. ‘We have seen the crippling effects of development efforts that are not holistic. Families who are affected by poverty need to be empowered and uplifted on a social, economic and physical level.’
They acknowledge that they had many privileges growing up in terms of education, great housing and other opportunities. They believe they have a responsibility to empower those who weren’t as fortunate as them. Because of their work, they spend most of their time working in Ikageng itself. Over the past years, the community has come to trust them. And their own friends and family are now very supportive of the great work the couple does – even if they had their doubts at first.
It takes a village
Louise and Meyer have many plans for Mosaic going forward. They are now in the process of building a private school to improve the quality of education in the township. They are also developing a healthcare centre. The organisation is planning on opening its doors in the Western Cape later this year, but while they do all of that, they plan to build at least 30 houses in the community of Ikageng for other families taking care of vulnerable and orphaned children. They hope to duplicate their model in many townships in the future. For now, they’ll keep on helping their community give children a better start.