One baby girl is the inspiration behind her mother’s beautiful charity – The Grace Factory. Through it, Amy Westerman CA(SA) has brought a ray of hope to almost 2 000 desperate new mothers and babies and assisted more than 80 children’s homes. Lynn Grala spoke to her
Quite coincidentally, it happens to be only two weeks after the premature and rather complicated birth of Amy Westerman’s second baby girl. She requested we meet in a quiet coffee shop close to her house, and after chatting a while she lets on the reason for her choice of venue.
‘The doctor actually said I may not drive yet,’ she tells me in almost a whisper. ‘But I need to get out!’
We hope this bit of news never reaches the doc’s ear and if it does, well, we’ll sure she’ll understand – Amy Westerman is just an extremely driven woman with a great purpose to fulfil. Because besides her full-time job as an assistant financial manager at Sage Enterprise and being a mom to two little girls, she is also founder of The Grace Factory, a non-profit organisation that supports children’s homes and new mothers by providing them with basic necessities such as clothes, blankets, toiletries, nappies and formula.
Amy says that with her second baby, she was again sharply reminded of the difficulty of child birth. ‘It’s not an easy time,’ says Amy, ‘Financially it’s difficult and emotionally it’s also tough.’
Having her second baby prematurely has further broadened her scope because realising that apparently 10% of babies are born prematurely, she also wanted to start focusing on collecting clothes for premature babies.
It all began in 2012, after giving birth to her first daughter. Amy took a six-month sabbatical during which she realised she had a load of excess baby clothes and accessories she wasn’t using and didn’t know what to do with. Having had her first child quite young, she was without any friends or family members who were also pregnant. Not knowing quite what else to do with all the extras, she would load them into the boot of her car and drive to the Spar behind her house, find out which of the car guards have babies in their families, and then pass it all along to them. But she soon realised she couldn’t keep giving to the same people all the time.
‘I didn’t know anything about charities, but having been raised in quite a charitable home, I thought, let me give it a go. I never thought The Grace Factory would become what it is today and that it would help others so much.’
The name comes from her daughter Erin Grace, Amy’s inspiration behind it all: ‘We started our NPO in February 2013 and have dropped off necessities to over 80 children’s homes in and around Gauteng thus far. We have many collection points in Gauteng and we collect from these whenever the bins provided have been filled. We donate to children’s homes, as often as possible, but usually once a week. Our secondary goal is to assist new mothers who have visited a South African government hospital or clinic for the delivery of their baby by giving them a maternity gift pack. These gift packs aid them in providing their babies with the basic needs that they require as well as vital information about the effective care of babies,’ she says.
‘I find in the Johannesburg community that if you put an appeal out and say, “Guys, I need this!”, they just come to the party. Volunteers for our packing days are usually found via social media appeals and by word of mouth. Sometimes a corporate will host a packing day for team-building – this way staff can get involved and see their donations being used for good.’
How does Amy manage to juggle it all with a full-time job? ‘I have an incredible support structure that I am extremely grateful for. The Grace Factory is run by myself and Alison Wright, without whom we would not have been as successful as we are today. My husband, family, friends and home administrator help me immensely.’
‘By being a CA(SA) I’d say I am able to juggle a lot; your articles really teach you that. Because I have a full-time career, family and my NPO, I’ve really had to use my juggling skills quite often. Being a CA(SA) has also helped me gain confidence to approach corporates for funding and has helped me with the statutory side of running an NPO such as setting up the NPO and getting SARS tax exemption.’
Says Amy: ‘South Africa is a country in terrible need of so many things and it’s satisfying knowing that you made a difference in somebody’s life, no matter how small. It also helps to put your life into perspective and to help you stop complaining when your problems are so small compared to some in desperate need.’
People can donate by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit www.thegracefactory.co.za for more information.
AUTHOR | Lynn Grala is Editorial Administrator of Accountancy SA