WRITTEN BY: OMEGA NGEMA
After enjoying a decade long career working as a social worker for an established NGO, the CEO and founder of CONECKT, Naomi Schauer has ventured out on her own.
CONECKT is an acronym for Charitable. Opportunities. Networking. Employability. Connecting Kindness through Technology. The company seeks to empower and uplift the most vulnerable and marginalised people in communities including children, substance abuse users, the aged, people with different abilities, and the neurodiverse population. Through the use of technology, CONECKT has developed various platforms to connect and network with a number corporate companies, donors, charities, and NGOs.
In this new venture Naomi is using her wealth of experience and knowledge to develop the NGO sector. “We try to find creative ways to help this very impoverished sector out of the poverty cycle that they are stuck in. There is so much skill in the sector but it’s segmented which makes development or any forward movement difficult. They struggle to be sustainable because they have limited access to resources, 200 000 NGOs and we really don’t know what each one offers” said Naomi.
She said the NGO sector was in crisis because most of the high level skilled graduates go to corporate companies and little choose to go into the charity sector. Coneckt therefore has stepped in to try and collaborate and work with these organisations, they source funding, the skills set and the resources to keep them running so that social workers and the staff in these institutions could focus on their core business which is to aid those in need. Naomi said she was inspired by the passion and dedication of some of the women and social workers that run these organisations. “A lot of them don’t even get paid. It’s just passion and love, and feeding schemes and hours, and putting in of their own money to help. I really believe these are the superheroes that have been left behind,” said Naomi.
The uplifting of the most vulnerable people in society is Naomi’s passion. She said, paramount to assisting these groups is the need for a shift in the perception that society has of them. “People need to start challenging their own misconceptions about people living with disabilities. We need to start even wording it differently. It is not disability, it is actually differently-abled. We all struggle with something, we are all different. When we see a dress, or a leaf or anything in nature that we have never seen before we all say wow this is new and different, it’s so beautiful. But with humans, when we see differences we tend to view it negatively” said Naomi adding that many people with mental health issues were afraid to disclose them due to the fear of judgement.
The mother of two boys (age 4 and 6) said it has always been her dream to be in the ‘helping’ profession. Her first dream job was to become a nurse, she then shifted to teaching and qualified before eventually landing on social work. Naomi said she was raised in a mixed family with an open minded world view as her father was from Israel and mother was a South African her parents from Holland and England. Naomi’s mother was a teacher for intellectually impaired children, so she was exposed to people who were different from an early age.
Running your own business can be very stressful and Naomi admits that finding a balance between her work and home life has not been very easy, but she was thankful for an ‘amazing’ support structure from her family and friends and especially her mother and husband.
“I would love to be remembered as someone who embodied equality, someone who was honest and someone who used every minute of every day to create the momentum towards the world that I would like to live in. I want to be remembered as someone who spent her life creating some real change in the world,” said Naomi.