Like minds meet at charity brunch

Jessica Dewhurst, winner of the Queen Elizabeths Young Leader Award.

She started a new justice organisation, won an international leadership award, met Queen Elizabeth and Prince Harry, and became an ambassador for the monarch, spent a week in Britain receiving mentoring for her work of training and empowering vulnerable communities – yet the question Jessica Dewhurst is most asked is: “What does David Beckham smell like?”

Ms Dewhurst, 24, of Rondebosch, was one of two South African women who won the Queen’s Young Leaders Award last year. On Friday October 28, she was the guest speaker at the Chaeli Campaign’s annual brunch, at the Bergvliet Sports Club.

“Chaeli and I are fan girls of each other,” Ms Dewhurst said. “I have known Chaeli since I was about 16 years old, she came to my school to give a talk and I was totally blown away by her. So we do this thing where we support each other.”

The Chaeli Campaign, based in Plumstead, is a non-profit organisation which enables children with disabilities through outreach programmes.

The Edmund Rice Justice Desk, based in Ottery, enables vulnerable communities through outreach programmes, so it’s not difficult to see why the two organisation’s like each other.

Ms Dewhurst, started the organisation because she wanted to do more to remedy social ills.

“Charity work is not enough, we need to do so much more. I often use the example of a plaster. Just say you cut yourself and put a plaster on it, that’s what I’d say charity work is but what we need to start shifting towards is justice work. Justice work would be looking at the cut and saying, ‘Where did I cut myself? Oh, there’s a fence, let me fix that fence and no one will in future cut themselves there again’.

“Charity work is amazing work. You’ve got to feed people, you’ve got to look after people, you’ve got to clothe people, you’ve got to give them housing but you’ve also got to start questioning why are people hungry, why are they homeless, why are they uneducated, why are people unable to find work? Injustice and poverty, these are huge barriers that are holding people down and charity work alone is never going to be able to overcome it.”

Ms Dewhurst started the organisation after an incident of crime against her. In the courtroom, she was brought face to face with her attacker. Instead of feeling hurt or angry, Ms Dewhurst said she felt like she had let the man down.

The incident sparked her interest in justice work and she studied social development. She was also afforded the opportunity to study human rights and justice with the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.

On her return to South Africa, she co-founded the Edmund Rice Justice Desk.

“Our purpose is to advocate, educate and equip, in the areas of human rights, justice and advocacy,” Ms Dewhurst said.

Not too much unlike the Chaeli campaign.

Debbie Cape, the campaign’s marketing and events manager, said the brunch was a success.

“We did manage to raise funds and have had positive feedback from those who attended,” she said.

“We hope to have it again next year.”

And just in case you’re still wondering what David Beckham smells like: “I’m going to answer that now, or else you’ll be thinking about it for the rest of the day,” Ms Dewhurst told the women who attended the brunch.

“Amazing ladies, amazing!”