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Shining a light on an unsung hero

Jun 28, 2022 | General, Lifestyle | 2 comments

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We wanted to create a series of articles about inspirational South Africans – some of whom you may even know. In our business we are privileged to learn more about people’s lives and stories daily, but every now and then we hear how a particular individual has made a massive difference and imprinted themselves on other people’s journeys. These are the stories we would like to share with you. 

The first person we wanted to shine a spotlight on is Johan Schlebusch, who sadly passed away two days after he was short-listed for this article. Johan was someone who was close to everyone at Veritas Wealth, so this is part inspirational story, part eulogy.

As a senior HR practitioner at Shell, Johan was highly regarded for his work and mentoring of colleagues. He built deep and meaningful relationships with those he met. When he retired from Shell, Johan became involved in a project called Vuka Rugby, where his role was to mentor the new management team. While there he became aware of another project called CoolPlay, which was initiated by Lindy Sutherland. Cool Play brought together two things that Johan loved most: rugby and mentorship of young people.

CoolPlay works with young people from disadvantaged communities in the Western Cape’s southern peninsula area. Johan identified the project’s potential to change the lives of teachers, coaches, learners and ultimately, communities. Johan recognised that CoolPlay did not require rugby facilities to deliver its agenda – it was really about helping others reach their full potential.

Just before he died, Johan sent out an email sharing CoolPlay’s achievements in the past 12 years. The project has reached 2000 young people across 85 teams, coached by 32 coaches. Here are five lessons Johan distilled from CoolPlay’s legacy of making an impact in communities, which can be easily translated into our own lives:

  1.   The opportunity to make a difference is very close to you

Talented and experienced people with skills to share could add enormous value to projects or campaigns, but they often do not know where to begin or how to get involved. The reality is that the opportunity to make a difference can be very close to you – usually with people you already know, on the fringes of your community or professional network.

  1.   Use your expertise and skillset in a different environment

Use your years of experience in running businesses and organisations. Use your existing contacts to raise funding. Funders are delighted to see proper governance and experience helping to guide organisations.

  1.   Humility will be your greatest strength

A classic mistake of successful entrepreneurs is to believe that expertise is easily transferable. When you decide to give back, realise that you are now in an area where you have very little expertise or experience. You will be good in an area, such as governance, but you will need to work with others who have huge amounts of experience in the problems the organisation seeks to address.

  1.   Look far in front of you

Working in the NGO space can be heart breaking. Many of us arrive at the doorstep, equipped with the best intentions and plans, hoping to solve everything in an instant, but more often than not, this is not the case. These are broken communities and institutions that need people to stick around. Daily operations will be challenged by endless problems, so one needs to be resilient and tenacious. Change is slow, but possible.

  1.   Nothing is impossible

Engaging in volunteer work can be frustrating and lonely. Funding can be difficult to come by and to hold onto. Credibility needs to be built. Staff members need to be developed to see the bigger picture. There are many occasions where one may feel hopeless. Persevere anyway.

What a legacy

Thankfully, Johan did persevere.

To honour his memory and commitment to the CoolPlay Way, the Johan Schlebusch Shield has been created. This shield will be awarded at each CoolPlay Tournament to the team who displays the best spirit in the CoolPlay Way, which is to recognise and promote:

  1. Respect for oneself and others
  2. Gender equality
  3. Growth and development-oriented thinking
  4. An optimistic outlook and a positive attitude
  5. A strong sense of self-awareness
  6. Staying calm and managing emotions
  7. Working hard and taking responsibility
  8. Patience and the understanding that change takes time
  9. Clear communication
  10. Honesty

For all those involved in CoolPlay, Johan’s passing will feel as though a huge tree that offered shade has fallen. However, his wish was that younger saplings would grow to take his place.

We encourage you to look for opportunities close to your heart and use your skill set to make a difference where you can.





  1. Bruce Probyn

    Thank you for the mail.Johan was clearly a remarkable man.His five points are life altering suggestions.Working with school principals in school with enormous socio economic challenges,I am often asked by folk who want to help but don’t know how. “The opportunity to make a difference is very close to you” is what I will suggest.

  2. Rick Whitehead

    What a fantastic legacy Johan has left behind it is this kind of dedication which will help to heal and develop our nation and give hope to those who feel life holds no hope .


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