Fond farewell for Shawco head

Staff at the Students’ Health and Welfare Centres Organisation (Shawco) expressed mixed emotions as they bade farewell to their manager, Desmond van Niekerk­.

The organisation’s staff members were disappointed that Van Niekerk was leaving after a year and a half at the helm, but celebrated the fact that he’s moving on to “bigger and better things”.

They sang his praises at his farewell party at the centre recently.

Clive Change, a cleaner at the centre for the past two years, said: “Des is a good person, a good manager. He was always on time (for work). Every day he had a nice smile on his face. I am going to miss him.”

Osman Cloete, a former driver at Shawco, said he enjoyed working with Van Niekerk and praised him for his good communication skills. “If you want to know something, you call Des and he would come sort it out. He’s a lovely guy, same face every day,” said Cloete­.

Isaac Hendricks, an IT specialist, said he appreciated Van Niekerk’s quality of placing people’s needs ahead of his own. “He’s all about the people. He’s the kind of leader who strives to have the team better than him, rather than him being better than the team.”

The Early Childhood Development (ECD) Forum’s Mymoena Anthony thanked Van Niekerk for his positive influence on her. “I drew inspiration from him. I am sad that he is leaving but I’m sure he’s got bigger, brighter things for the future. I just want to wish him well,” said Anthony­.

She describes Van Niekerk as “a funny character, always teasing me”.

Van Niekerk describes himself as a life coach, writer, mentor, specialised counsellor and a popular educator. He was appointed manager of the centre in February last year. Asked what he would do next, Van Niekerk said he would “go back to consulting on personal development and materials development and writing”.

He asserts that under his tutelage the centre’s staff and projects, particularly educational projects, grew, and that the local community’s support for the centre also improved, living up to the motto: “Get the locals’ feet back to the centre”.

“Shawco has been synonymous with a community hub, where everything you can think of happened at the centre. The first judo association was at Kensington Shawco; from ballet to ballroom dancing, from gymnastics to volleyball and from The Rockets to movie night at the centre – this is where it all happened and so my focus was on celebrating 75 years of dynamic impact at community level through primary health care and education,” said Van Niekerk.

The centre recently celebrated its 75th anniversary with a street carnival and other exciting activities (“All about empowerment”, People’s Post, Tuesday 10 July).

Van Niekerk has vowed that Shawco will “always be part of my journey, as community development runs through my veins”.