Singapore loves South African wine

There’s only one rule about the Singapore South African Wine Club… a love for South Africa is a must. “The taste, the experience, the memories of visiting many wine estates in the Cape region, sitting in gardens or tasting rooms, and just enjoying the experience of the wonderful food, the lovely people, and the fabulous wines….” Reminisced Conny Jamieson, when asked why she and her husband Fraser started the Singapore South African Wine Club.

There’s a deeper reason too: during the height of the pandemic the stories of how South African wine estates weren’t able to sell wines domestically or even at one point, export, during the various liquor bans reached Singaporean shores. The couple remembering all the fond times that had in the Cape sprang into action – when of course, exports were once again granted.

“We heard many anecdotal stories from friends in South Africa of terrible hardship,” shared Conny. “We decided that with a buffer built into the pricing that we could give back to the people who created the wine. All of the members of the club are thrilled that they can drink wine and give back.

“We are not retailers or wholesalers. We are a collective buying club and everyone drinks for their own consumption." They use a wine importer to bring in the wine after compiling the order through simply sending out a form to their database of their chosen estates. The price of the wines inlcude shipment, delivery and administration costs. The outstanding margin is donated to Wineland's based charities focused on children. They are currently affiliated with The Pebbles Project, AITSA and Isabelo.

The first shipment arrived in Singapore in February 2021 and was already an impressive 392 cases. The second wine shipment, which arrived in July 2021, totalled 865 cases. That number ramped up to 1,281 in December 2021 and they have just finalised the latest orders of 999 cases. To date they have raised over half a million Rand for the aforementioned charities, which have variously used the funds to enrich the lives of their beneficiaries. 

The Pebbles Project
The NGO used the funds to provide primary healthcare, wellness and dental services to the 1400 children from farms in Stellenbosch, Citrusdal, Wellington and Hermanus. The children range in age from infants to 18 years. Health services were also provided to adults from the local farming communities and neighbouring businesses.

The majority of these health services are provided at Pebble's own clinic located on Stellenbosch wine farm, Villiera. Included in this was a daily bus service to enable patients to easily access the clinic. They also operate on an appointment system, to prevent the long waiting times that patients would otherwise have to face at the government clinic in town. The clinic provides a range of services, including: Primary Healthcare – which includes a consultation with a Clinical Nursing Practitioner and the treatment of childhood illnesses, injuries, sickness or other ailments. The CNP is also able to provide immunisations, Vitamin A supplements and de-worming treatment for children. Testing is done for Tuberculosis and HIV when required. Patients are also referred to local hospitals or specialists for more serious conditions. In recent months, the clinic has been able to give COVID-19 antibody tests and the facility has been used twice as a COVID-19 vaccination centre for farm workers.

"For many of our children Covid really affected their lives and has stirred more fear and loss, '' said Marietjie Stein of Aitsa After Care Centre. "Many of them have experienced death of loved ones and also some form of trauma in the last year. For this reason we invested the donation into our psycho-social support department."

The department consists of one onsite social worker, one onsite counsellor as well as a clinical psychologist that comes in every second week to support parents going through job loss, relational issues as well as drug and alcohol abuse. The onsite social worker mainly does play therapy where she deals with loss and other forms of trauma such as domestic violence. She does regular home visits to check on issues such as safety and neglect, while the counsellor deals with the senior boys and focuses on individual therapy as well as groups. There are also three camps for Grade 4 to Grade 6 learners. These camps focus on restorative and preventative work with themes like Dream Big, Hope and Puberty.  "All of the above shape our psycho-social department and are really geared at looking at the emotional and mental health of our children," said Marietjie. "We find this to be under much more strain than in the past."

Founded in 2009 by award winning chef Margot Janse, Isabelo Charity provides daily, nutritious meals to underprivileged school children in Franschhoek. "Because no child can learn on an empty stomach," says Margot rightly. With their donation from the Singapore South African Wine Club (along with a contribution from Clash of the Chefs)  Margot says they have been able to secure a 'long wished-for' delivery van for all those nutritious meals.

- Blog by Malu Lambert