Jimmy John Lenong, Free State Chapter Chairperson

EAPA-SA Free State Chapter Chairperson: Jimmy John Lenong provides us with an update on the Chapter’s highlights and initiatives over the past year and what is in store for their 10th anniversary year.

What makes your chapter unique?
EAPA Free State Chapter (EAPA-FS) was founded in 2008, and is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. What a milestone! Of course, like any organisation the Chapter had a 10-year topsy-turvy journey of ups and downs. What has stood out, though, is the resilience and the sacrifices by the men and women who have served the Chapter in different portfolios in the EXCO over the years and brought it to where it is today…and for that they deserve a round of applause! When the going got tough we were motivated by what one of the former presidents of America, Theodore Roosevelt, once said. “Keep your eyes on the stars and your feet on the ground”. Yes, we never allowed the moving ground beneath our feet to derail our mission over the years.

EAPA-FS is one of the smaller chapters with 23 registered members, with numbers fluctuating from year-to-year. This Chapter may be small in numbers but is big in ambition and initiatives to grow the membership base; hence a concerted effort is being made to reach 30 members by the end of this, our anniversary year. Efforts to grow membership have resulted in reaching out to captive audiences of EAPs in the Lejweleputsoa district where a sub-chapter was established in 2016. The Chapter is mostly a home to government EAP professionals (both local, provincial, and national government departments).

The strength and upward trajectory of the Free State Chapter lies in the strong partnerships forged with our stakeholders, the variety of value-laden offerings to our members and the EXCO’s commitment to serve our constituency. In the past two years, specifically, the saying by Phil Jackson that “the strength of the team is in each individual member, and the strength of each member is in the team” has been like glue binding the EXCO together, hence our unique achievements.

How does joining your chapter benefit your members?
Our members benefit through our developmental sessions that touch on pertinent job related topics. We are hopeful that this goes a long way in promoting the highest professional standards and ethics of practice for all EHW professionals and EAPs who attend our sessions. The Chapter further affords an opportunity for sharing best practices and networking. We are continuing with our resolve to offer continuous professional development (CPD) related initiatives to our membership and we are pursuing this mission earnestly in 2018, hence an application to SACSSP to credit our year program with CPD points.

What has been the chapter highlight over the past twelve months?
Of course the biggest highlight in the past twelve months has to have been our 2018 commemorative opening event themed “Night Out with the Stars”, where we literally enjoyed a live satellite transmission into the universe and learnt about stars, planets, and other celestial bodies at the Naval Hill Planetarium; juxtaposing the theme to symbolise our belief that we are a star association with a track record of ten years to prove it – over which time we collected Chapter of the Year twice, in 2015 and 2016 respectively.

As can be expected of the EAPA-FS, some of the highlights in the past 12 months include:
• A session on ethics which saw the Chapter establishing new partnerships with the Council of SAASWIPP, Hillandale Hospital and Social Workers in Private Practice.
• An increased delegation number to the 2017 National Conference despite the cost containment measures practiced by Government that left many not attending the conference.
• Partnering with other stakeholders like Cancer Association, Hollard, and Mangaung Athletics Club in driving Provincial Prostate Cancer Awareness.
• Holding a successful 3rd Annual EAPA-FS June 16th Walk/Run proudly sponsored by Old Mutual.
• Donations to the needy.

What do you have in the pipeline for the following 12 months?
Perhaps one of the biggest milestones of the Chapter in the next 12 months will be a successful elective AGM in August 2018, where we hope to elect a new breed of leadership that will take the Chapter forward. To this end we have been strategically grooming and blending new capable talent into the EXCO in the past two years, grooming new leadership for the take-over; and this year in particular the EXCO has identified a bigger pool of capable EAPs who are being mentored and blended into Chapter activities to smooth the handover come August 2018.

Furthermore, we hope to continue with our established programme of a variety of activities and events for our members, ranging from developmental sessions on topical issues in the profession to wellness events. These will take the form of fun run, fun walk, and hiking community social investment initiatives through partnering with NGOs to assist with their projects, certificate ceremonies to acknowledge contribution to the Chapter to honour new members, celebratory events in the form of year-end functions and gala evenings as well as organising fundraising events to boost our coffers.

What developments in EAP practices and programmes have you seen come to the fore in your region the past 24 months?
A culture of strong peer support networks, where we share best practice models has evolved over the years where members share resources and serve as a springboard to ideas for their programmes in their respective workplaces, especially around matters of EAPA-SA Standards and Code of Ethics. The Chapter has also done very well over the last 24 months in the uptake of SAQA membership designations, which has improved to about 21 members with designations ranging from EAP practitioners to EAP professionals.

How do you see the EAP / Health and Wellness impacting the good of the workforce in your region?
Firstly, unlike in provinces like Gauteng where there are many service providers offering wellness and EAP services, as well as potential sponsors willing to backup EAP offerings, the Free State Chapter is challenged in this regard. In noticing the gap, the EAPA-FS has positioned itself as the home, the voice, and developmental engine for EAPs in the province.

Secondly, because of the vastness and the geographical spread of the Free State Province, we are challenged in our endeavours to address the needs and reach EAPs in all districts in the province. Currently, the most benefits out of the EAPA-FS offerings accrue to the professionals around the Bloemfontein area. However, efforts are underway to reach out to other areas in the province through championing the establishment of sub-chapters.

To visit the chapter or contact the Chapter Chairperson, please visit their page http://www.eapasa.co.za/free-state-chapter/

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