New DWF head office at Donald Wood’s birthplace
23 May 2014
The Donald Woods Foundation has officially opened its new head office at Hobeni, in the deeply rural area of the Mbashe Local Municipality, Eastern Cape, South Africa. The old Hobeni trading store was where Donald Woods was born on 15 December 1933.
The opening was attended by the Mayor of the Mbashe municipality, Cllr N. O. Mfecane; the local traditional leader, Chief Phatisile Fudumele; Ward Councillor Joe Savu; representatives of the Departments of Education and Health, Trustees from DWF’s South African and United Kingdom boards as well as around 3 000 members of the local community. Guests were entertained by several local choirs and Bomvana cultural groups.
In welcoming visitors to Hobeni, Chief Phatisile stressed the important work done by the DWF in the area and expressed the appreciation of the community, of which the Foundation was seen to be an integral part.
In his address the Chief Executive of the Foundation, Dillon Woods, emphasised that the investment in the area was a commitment of the Foundation to partner with the community and the government in improving the lives of ordinary people in the long-term.
“The construction of our head office in the deepest rural areas is a promise to the people of the Eastern Cape. It signals our genuine commitment to rural development. You cannot manage a large development project to improve the lives of rural people far away in a city.”
In her message of support, the Mayor of Mbashe, Cllr Mfecane, welcomed the Foundation partnership with government and appreciated the important work being done by the Foundation. In her keynote address, Dr Mary Hlalele of the Sabona Sonke Foundation, congratulated the Foundation on this important milestone and emphasised how important such partnership programmes were to the government in achieving its commitment to improving access to quality healthcare and education.
The purpose-built building includes offices, a large training room, a board room, meetings rooms and IT infrastructure. It has also been designed to house the books and papers of Donald and Wendy Woods in a special library and archive. The development of the head office for the Foundation also includes redevelopment and upgrading of the old house and other buildings to provide accommodation for staff and visiting researchers and volunteers on site.
The construction of the head office represents the single biggest investment in infrastructure in the area since 1994. During the construction phases, many jobs were created for local people.
The Hobeni trading store was identified as a heritage site by the Amathole District Municipality in 2006. The redevelopment has been undertaken with due regard to its heritage status and to green building principles. All water used on the site is rainwater harvested from the roofs of the buildings.
The official opening included the unveiling of two commemorative plaques paying tribute to Donald and Wendy Woods. The entire complex will in future be known as the Donald Woods Centre and the main building housing office and conference centre is ‘Wendy Woods House.’