GEM looks to bring hope to vulnerable children


Ethembeni teddiesGEM is getting its volunteers to help feed and play with the kids of Ethembeni Children’s Home in Johannesburg. (Image: Youtube: Salvation Army Vision Network)

By Ray Maota

A children’s home in the heart of Johannesburg that offers refuge for children infected or affected by HIV/Aids is getting a helping hand from a group running a mobile app for volunteers.

GEM (Go the Extra Mile), the mobile rewards platform for volunteers, is getting South Africans to help out at Ethembeni Children’s Home in Doornfontein, Johannesburg. Ethembeni, meaning “place of hope” in isiXhosa, was established by the Salvation Army in 1995 and is home to as many as 60 children from birth to three years old.

David Shields, co-founder of GEM, said volunteers from all walks of life gathered to do their bit for the home. “They will be helping out at the home, whether it’s playing with the children, helping to feed them, taking care of general maintenance and once that is done they receive their GEMs.”

The activation was one of six throughout Johannesburg on Saturday, 7 May.


GEM’s relationship with Play Your Part started with a phone conversation between Shields and Brand South Africa’s strategic relationship manager for business, Rodney Moloko. This led to the app’s first 10 activations, on Mandela Day last year.

“Since then we have grown in leaps and bounds. I would like to think GEM and Play Your Part go hand in hand as GEM helps people physically play their part,” said Shields.

The turnout varies from activation to activation as volunteers tend to go to places closer to them. “We choose the establishments to help whether or not they fit the GEM profile, which is quite stringent. The place has to be safe, warm and welcoming and some organisations don’t fit those criteria.”


Shields believes the millennial generation has seen what their fathers and forefathers have done to the country and how the entire capitalist system is bloated.

“There is no way that people can keep making money for themselves without caring for others, the environment or the animals. We have seen the after effects of this and now we want to do well by doing good.

“With the rise of the internet and other technologies we have more information than our parents and so we are more consciously aware of what it takes to make a change.”


Shields said: “We have actually started on working on benefits for GEM users. At the moment we are developing a USSD trivia quiz where users can log on and answer questions and by doing such, earn GEMs.

“In the next six months to a year we would like to get into the banking sector by catering for the unbanked people of South Africa.”