With the whirlwind 2017 has started in, we are a little behind on introducing our new Chairperson, Rev Glynis Goyns, and new Co-Executive Director of SAFCEI, Francesca de Gasparis, who is sharing the role with Ani Tsondru. We are however immensely happy to have them on board and would like to welcome them warmly to the SAFCEI family (though Glynis has already journeyed with SAFCEI from the beginning, and is coming full circle!)
Glynis takes over from Tahirih Matthee who has been on SAFCEI’s Board since 2007, seven years of which she served as Chairperson. We are immensely grateful for all the guidance and calm wisdom Tahirih provided in this time and were very happy that she could be persuaded to not step down completely and continue to journey with us as Vice-Chairperson on the Board.
And we also want to extend a heartfelt thank you to Glynis for stepping into this role at such a significant time for SAFCEI as we continue working for energy justice in South Africa.
Glynis was part of the SAFCEI journey from the very beginning, when she was allocated responsibility by the General Assembly Ecumenical Relationships Committee in 2005 to represent the Uniting Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa (UPCSA) to attend a multi-faith conference in Hartbeespoort on the growing global environmental crisis. At the time, she wondered why she had been selected to attend this event, not having engaged much with ecology or natural sciences.
However she soon found herself in the middle of it all and became part of the Steering Committee with the mandate to launch a multi-faith environment institute; SAFCEI was launched in July 2005 with Wangari Maathai planting a tree in honour of the newly born organisation.
That was the beginning of her 12-year journey with SAFCEI, initially as a member of the Steering Committee, then the Management Committee, Board of Directors, and finally as staff, initially as Operations Manager then Eco-congregations Coordinator (North). Now she has come full circle as Chairperson of the Board.
Glynis writes this of her journey so far: “Gradually my understanding of eco-justice and the environment grew, together with my appreciation of the mutual respect and camaraderie shared by people from diverse faith communities. Mutual respect and a shared passion for the earth was the hallmark of the organisation. Participants in shaping the way forward were not afraid to speak their minds. There were often disagreements, but the sense of fellowship was always quickly restored due to a shared passion for responsible living and appreciation for the community of life.”
Francesca, previously worked with SAFCEI as a consultant, and has long been working on similar issues, with a focus on organisational development, advocacy, policy and climate change strategies. She was Director of the Europe office of the Green Belt Movement International (GBMI) from its inception for 8 years; which was started after Wangari Maathai was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005, a women who touched and inspired many lives across Africa, and the world. Francesca was first introduced to SAFCEI via Bishop Geoff in 2010, and she says that joining the team formally in 2017 feels like a natural progression, and an exciting new opportunity to help shape SAFCEI’s future.
Francesca has worked in the environment sector for over fifteen years, after a previous career in IT, and has a master’s degree in Environment and Community from Antioch University. She is also no stranger to the challenges and opportunities in the NGO sector and has worked with numerous NGOs in Africa on sustainable development and a holistic environmental approach, helping to ensure NGOs have the support they need to deliver on their aims.
Francesca spent her high school and undergraduate years in Johannesburg, and was a student activist at the University of Witwatersrand in the turbulent years before the end of Apartheid. Her escape from the city in those times was the peace of the Southern African wilderness, she says. Thereafter she spent 17 years living in London before moving back to Cape Town with her partner in 2015.
We welcome both Francesca and Glynis, on their new, and renewed path with SAFCEI, and hope their continued journey with SAFCEI is a long and fruitful one.