Pay It Forward

Everything, everybody, every post on this blog means something to me. And I like to give back what little I can when people give to me, in whatever way it is – whether it’s helping me feel good, or in this case, helping my community when we were collecting for victims of a shack fire. The fire was big. More than 200 shacks went down, and more than 1000 people were affected. Our community (Ward 118 in Johannesburg) gave and gave. Surrounding communities gave and gave. And Pay It Forward came to the party in a massive way by sending us truckloads of goods from as far away as the Far East Rand! 

I asked Greg some questions. 

What is Pay It Forward all about?

 In a nutshell, one person helping another, and that person, when they are able, helping yet another.  In the hope that this will continue down the line, through a community, across the land, and beyond our borders. We NEED to Pay It Forward, to create a better World for all

Pay It Forward is the name of a movie starring the young Haley Joel Osment. Was there something that touched you about this movie and is there any reason you chose the name Pay It Forward for the organisation?

It is directly due to the book by Catherine Hyde, which was later made into the Movie, that I chose the name.  Because of the concept.  Instead of lending something to another, I believe we must give, without expectation, or want of return.  Something about the movie you ask?  Yes, from the beginning to the end it was a matter of doing for others, no matter how insignificant we may feel that ‘doing’ is.  To the receiver, it is often a mountain removed from their path

What inspired you to start it? 

I followed a group which dealt with missing people.  In July 2011, I physically assisted in such a case in Midrand.  Not with the search.  By the time I became involved after contacting the Dad of the missing young man, there were enough people doing the physical search.  I sat in their home and wondered what I could do.  These people were bone tired, and I heard the conversations about people assisting, who had taken close to the last of their home budget monies to assist.  I fetched food and went back.  I heard about a family helping, who had none.  I put together a hamper.  This led to a later call about a family in the same area also suffering.  I put together a hamper for them too.  That was the inspiration.  That was the start.

You were a professional in the corporate world before you started PIF. Was it hard to make the break from something solid money wise to follow your passion?

I sat, approximately 3 months into the assistance being given, and realized that the need was so great, the requests increasing in number on a daily basis, and knew I needed to make a decision.  I spoke to my Fiance, and she was what she has always been, supportive.  I looked inside and KNEW where the satisfaction came from, and it was not from what I was doing which brought in an Income.  It was daunting, admittedly.  I knew that, working for myself, if we were unable to sustain ourselves within a few Months, I could ‘revive’ my business.  I have not needed to up to now.

Are there any particular PIF cases you’d like to bring to our attention?

Many.  There are two which were closer to the time I started this which I will mention. 

One is a guy, married with a family, who had been retrenched months before.  Savings had run out.  The Bond was behind.  Car payments were behind.  Their world was crumbling around them.  It reached the point where there was nobody left to borrow from.  Where he was unable to afford Internet Café fee’s to seek employment.  No money to buy a newspaper to seek opportunity.  The man decided it would be better to finish off his family.  He didn’t have anything to do that with.  They reached rock bottom.  No food, no electricity, and the water was switched to a trickle on a Thursday afternoon.  A neighbor called me on the Friday morning when she came across the Mom sobbing in the garden.  Two and half months later, with Pay It Forward providing food for the family each week, and negotiating with the authorities regarding the power and water, Dad found a similar position to what he had held before.  This family drives around each Saturday and delivers food to the folks who are on the assistance program.

The second is the youngster of 15 who stayed with his family in a squatter camp.  He spoke to me early one Wednesday morning when I delivered food to the residents, and told me his dreams, and how he had not attended school for almost two years.  I made enquiries, and drove him to the Free State for a school interview.  He was accepted.  I wondered how fees would be paid.  I put out word.  People came together.  He started Gr 9 this year, fees fully paid by two families.  He toured the UK in July as part of the school Cricket team, fully paid by parents of classmates.

How best can members of the public support PIF

I am asked this question often.  The best way for me, is for folks to watch our Facebook Page, and where something grabs their heart, and they are able to, they should shout loudly.  We each have something which grabs us.  It may be a family without food.  It might be a family needing accommodation.  It might a person needing transport to a hospital……….

 Facebook, like all parts of society, can be used for good or for bad. I just love how PIF has been able to use this medium to generate amazing support from the community. This said, Where can people follow and find out what PIF is doing on a daily basis?

The Facebook Page (click here) is where I am glued for most of every day. I believe, and have often had it confirmed, that this is the perfect platform for folks who want to help, want to do something in the way of helping, or paying it forward, but don’t know where to begin.   Because of the ‘real’, the transparency, the fact that when I put out a call for food and a person is wanting to help, they can do the shop, they can deliver to the very people, their involvement is not just about passing food along.  This therefore is where needs are shown, ‘live’, at the moment, and where people can jump in and DO.

A concept that’s on my mind a lot at the moment is that there’s a golden thread of humanity which runs through generations, races, countries – something that connects us all. There’s something about PIF that somehow manages to tweak that golden thread in us all – and people come together. Firstly you must be very proud that you are the man that basically came up with the concept that tweaks that thread, and secondly, what do you think it is about PIF that does that to us?

I am proud and I am humbled daily.  I believe more and more that there is an abundance of good and kind in this world, more so than the horror of what we see and read daily.  Good and kind just doesn’t get as much attention.

I believe because of the variety of needs that Pay It Forward put out there, it joins people who want to help, and don’t know how, as I mentioned earlier.  And the fact that folks who go out and assist physically come back and mention how good THEY feel having helped, helps to inspire others.

I fully believe that because we insist on not using names on the Page of people in need, people respect that we will retain their dignity, those who need help.  Often that is all they have left.  It is never easy to look into another’s eyes and ask for food or any help really.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us (contact details etc also please)

There are certain issues we cannot assist with.  Where I cannot, I do my homework, and refer to where possible help is available.

My wish is for this community organization to continue growing.  We are NOT a charity and never will be.  A charity is a handout.  We are not.  We expect people who are helped to pay it forward when they can, and help another, remembering the time they were in need.  Remembering that they were not asked for anything in return, except to help another.

The best method of contact is the Inbox on the Pay It Forward Page on Facebook.  Alternatively to eMail me on

Click to listen to a radio interview with Greg on Radio Today Johannesburg. 

Pay It Forward pay it forward on a daily basis. So can you. 

Related Article: Amy Yasbeck chats to us about the John Ritter Foundation for Aortic Health

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Writer, transcriber, proofreader, editor, lover of the arts.

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