Saturday, 27 November 2010

News from the South African Townships,Thanks to the Flash Centre and Velmex

Followers of this blog will know of my visit to the South African townships of Vrygrond and Overcome Heights earlier this year where I held held a Workshop for township youth's under the stewardship of the NGO True North.

It was a success in many respects with some of the students continuing to use the Canon 450D's to earn money in the community, photographing weddings, christenings and parties

The real sadness was that while computers are relatively affordable a good quality wide format printer which is capable of delivering great photographic and graphic results is out of everyone's league.

Why was I so stuck on a wide format printer? Well aside from the considerably lower running costs think of this...

In the townships HIV and AIDS is rife, there is a degree of awareness but imagine if it were relatively cheap and easy to print public health posters and post them in the community?

All of a sudden a printer becomes more than a way of the students seeing their own work and for the more motivated to earn some kind of living in a country where unemployment is the number one enemy.

Fast forward a few months to July and I'm visiting my friends in the Flash Centre.

Its stock taking time and everyone is wading through equipment in the bowels of the shop.

I'm chatting to my old friend Chris Whittle, the owner of the Flash Centre, he knows of my visit to South Africa and he asks me what is next with the project.

He listens with interest as I tell him just what a great impact the project has had with everyone involved and how I was trying to get a wide format printer to the community.

He smiles and motions to a Secondhand but very good Canon W6400 in the corner of the basement and says 'You can have that if you like'.

I accept his offer with indecent haste thanking him profusely.

Then it sinks in.

Chris Whittle of the Flash Centre has donated a wonderful Canon W6400 wide format printer.

Dimensions (in inches) 43.2 x 47.3 x 29.6

Weight 108lbs (around 50kgs)

How on earth am I going to get it to South Africa???????

So I rang Mark Keeley the CEO of Velmex, distributors of the fantastic Canon LFP products.

The conversation went something like this:

Drew.  'Hi Mark how are things?

Mark. 'Great thank you Drew'

Drew. 'The Flash Centre have donated a Canon W6400 printer to the Township project. Do you know of any good shipping companies who could ship it to South Africa?'

Mark. 'That sounds like a worthy cause, can we check it over, refurbish it and ship it for you?'

Drew 'That would be fantastic, are you sure?'

Mark 'Yes, we would love to help. We can throw in some spare ink and paper for it too'

Drew.'Thank you!!!!!!!!

Within the hour it was loaded in the back of my car for its journey to Velmex HQ in South London to start its long journey.

To be honest it was a much longer journey than any of us could have imagined as True North only got their hands on it in the past couple of weeks thanks to Customs and storage issues, leaving the NGO scrabbling to find funds to get the printer released.

So they are now installing it and within a short space of time it will be in full use with the students.

Without Chris Whittle of the Flash Centre who donated the printer and Mark Keeley of Velmex who shipped and prepped the printer it would not have been possible at all.

I cannot thank them enough for their contribution.

Their kindness and generosity will be felt by the the whole community, not just the students.

I will be travelling to the townships again early next year to run another week long workshop with the youths in the townships.

I will report back to you and let you know how the students are progressing, and the difference the printer is making.


James said...

It's fantastic that there are still people able to make those sort of commitments on behalf of their organizations (at a time when it seems everyone is under pressure to cut costs). It's also great that you were there to spark the idea into action, and commit your own time and effort to the cause.

Good job all around.

Drew Gardner said...

Thanks James

I'm so grateful to The Flash Centre and Velmex

The impact of their contribution will be felt for a long time to come

It is easier than you think to kick things into action if one than you might think

I would encourage anyone to try to give back in anyway they can with their photography

Just watch what happens when you do



Morgana Creely said...

So fabulous that people are willing to step in and help.

Well done Flash Centre and Velmex. :)

Kelly said...

Hi Drew,

I think what you're doing with the Township project is brilliant. I've only read this blog so far but felt I wanted to respond. I'm in South Africa at the moment (returning to London on Thursday) and visited a township near Cape Town the other day. I've taken photographs and will be returning to the township on Tuesday and Wednesday for more - I intend to send proposals for an exhibition in London to raise awareness of the conditions that many South Africans are still forced to live with.

If there is any way that I can help with anything or if you can suggest any other organisations that I can contact then please let me know. I've been researching ever since my visit and really want to get involved and help any way that I can.

Keep up the good work!

Kelly (

Drew Gardner said...

Hi Morgana and Kelly

Thank you very much for your comments

The Flash Centre and Velmex have been brilliant

I will try think of a suggestion for you Kelly

If you start to blog about the townships you may find hat someone with a shared interest will get in touch

It is sort of what happened to me

Getting your work out there a sharing is the most important thing you can do

Best of luck with it