A well-known theatre in a local township had fallen to ruins, but a group of volunteers spent a full day refurbishing the establishment to bring it, and the community back to life.

A well-known theatre in a local township had fallen to ruins, but a group of volunteers spent a full day refurbishing the establishment to bring it, and the community back to life.


Johannesburg, South Africa – A group of volunteers rallied together to breathe life back into an old rundown theatre in the heart of Alexandra.

The group had met on GEM, an App that brings South Africans together to play their part and do some good!

GEM – which stands for Going the Extra Mile – is curbing unemployment and assisting with productivity amongst a sea of uninspired youth. In many cases, volunteers are unemployed people who spend their time contributing to their communities. With GEM’s reward system, the volunteers are guaranteed to earn something for their good deeds.

When volunteers complete a good deed, they are eligible to receive a reward via the app, which is called GEMs. These GEMs can be redeemed for products such as airtime, data, pre-paid electricity, movie tickets and grocery e-Vouchers.

But co-founder David Shields makes it clear that GEMs are not a means of financial support.

“Rewards are to be seen as a gesture of goodwill, not payment.”

Jasna Cameron recently found the GEM App and joined them on a day out in Alexandra to refurbish the Kings Cinema, a well-known Artdeco movie house which captured the style of the 1950s and formed the centre of the entertainment district until it recently fell into ruins.

Jasna, a passionate activist saw a post about the theatre day and knew that she wanted to help.

“I was a newbie on the day, having never participated in any of the GEM Project activities before. From the pictures on the GEM website, I had a vague idea of what to expect on the day. Something along the lines of, ‘ordinary citizens organising themselves to become a pro-active driving force within their own community: cleaning litter, interacting with each other, listening to good music & sharing good food, basically “paying it forward” to the environment and neighbours alike.’

That really appealed to me, so I was even more eager to jump in and & play my part, finally putting this ‘positive ripple effect’ into action.”

The day of the fix-up itself was an incredible eye-opener for Jasna and the entire team of active citizens who collectively called it a ‘total game-changer’.

The juxtaposition of the Sandton buildings towering over the small informal houses of Alexandra was a stark reminder that we still have a long way to go in South Africa. One of the wealthiest suburbs in South Africa is a neighbour to one of the poorest.


If I closed my eyes, I could’ve imagined I was in the middle of Mumbai, with all that frenzied energy running through me. The weirdest realisation was when my eyes were open; the dazzling Sandton skyline was right in front of me! Yet what a completely different world it was. I couldn’t begin to imagine how hard it must be for locals to live in poverty like this, with no electricity or water, in tiny shacks (with sewage running down the streets) while every day catching taxis to work in the high-rise suits of Sandton corporate-dom.

It gave me even more of a reason to give something back to the Alex community, which not only understands poverty and suffering but which lives it every day.”

On-site, the volunteers all agreed that the energy was unbelievable. Surrounded by like-minded South Africans, smiling with paintbrushes in hand, overalls on and ready to play their part and give back to a community in need!

A group of local children even jumped in to help… the reaction to doing good is certainly a contagious one!

“Looking at the kids, I knew that this was in fact, what it’s all about; passing on the legacy, teaching our future generation to be responsible citizens and playing your part in the community. While it was a lot of work on the day; cleaning, clearing, washing, fixing and painting, we were all there, together, making positive memories in each another’s presence.” 

As the sun set on the day, the theatre shined brighter than ever before, but not with the style of the 1950s and rather a glimmer of hope for the future.

GEM x King's Cinema x Fix Up (2019)

Our troops are on the ground. Campaigning with a powerful, positive force for change. We're not accountable to the ballot but to each other. It is in our differences that we are united & together we'll continue to Go the Extra Mile (GEM). Thank you for your continued support…and so we rise! 💎💥🇿🇦King's Cinema Fix-Up (13/04/19)

Posted by GEM on Sunday, 12 May 2019

Jasna turned to look at the work they had done and realised that together they had really played their part.

“Alex, you have a cinema back in action, but more so you have a place to come together in your community, and I cannot wait to share this special place with you.

I’m bringing my kids to the opening as we need to share this space, just like we share our beautiful country.

All of us are citizens of South Africa… we live in the same cities; we strive to take care of our kids, to educate them and love them. We are fueled by the remarkably similar hopes and dreams of becoming successful and happy people. It is this fuel which makes us hustle, each day progressing in the magnificent, turbulent and ever exciting city of Jozi!

It is this fuel that makes us better South Africans!”

Play Your Part is a nationwide movement created to inspire, empower and celebrate active citizenship in South Africa. Its objective is to lift the spirit of our nation by inspiring all South Africans to contribute to positive change, become involved and start doing – because a nation of people who care deeply for one another and the environment in which they live is good for everyone. 

The campaign is driven by Brand South Africa.

To get involved or for more information, click here!

Brand South Africa Play Your part

Sources: GEM | Brand SA | Jasna Cameron 
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Brent Lindeque is the founder and editor in charge at Good Things Guy.

Recognised as one of the Mail and Guardian’s Top 200 Young South African’s as well as a Primedia LeadSA Hero, Brent is a change maker, thought leader, radio host, foodie, vlogger, writer and all round good guy.

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