Every great cause needs a champion.

Every vision needs visionaries who have the depth of insight to recognize potential.

And every inspired idea needs those who have the courage to venture into unchartered territory.

On the Proud of my Town journey, this champion is Nina Wellsted.

In conversation with community members at a stakeholder workshop in Kanyamazane township, Nelspruit in Mpumalanga Province.

Participating in the Jamestown Strawberry Festival, co-sponsored by Nedbank for two years. {This photograph in loving memory of ECD principal, Glynis Hine (back, centre)}

The Ranyaka team first met Nina, head of Socio-Economic Development, Retail at Nedbank, in 2013 – a few years before Proud of my Town (PoMT) as a programme would be officially launched. Nina’s interest in the unfolding Ranyaka Collaborative Community Development model was piqued after her first visit to Magaliesburg, a small town in Gauteng. At the time, Ranyaka was piloting a new way of tackling community development – an approach rooted not only in urban planning best practice, but one that relies heavily on local buy-in and the activation of community change agents to drive projects on the ground.

The model offers no quick fixes. Its success depends on quality relationships between funder, implementation agent and the local community that is an active partner in bringing the model to life. It also represents a shift from investment in isolated projects that are funded in a detached manner to engaging closely with beneficiary communities to co-create multi-programme transformation plans.

Nina soon recognized the potential value of such an approach – for all parties involved – and, in fact, the necessity for corporates to invest in creating what she refers to as ‘eco systems of possibility’.

Listening to the stories of community change agents. Aunty Siena Charles lives in the town of Kylemore and is a true local hero.

Exploring communities – site visit with colleagues and Ranyaka members to Umlazi, KwaZulu-Natal

Bringing Proud of my Town to life

Over the past eight years, Nina has been the driving force in bringing to life what is now known as Proud of my Town.

Her unique ability to match the dynamics of the PoMT model with the business mandate of Nedbank has unlocked opportunities both for the communities where PoMT is being implemented – as well as for Nedbank as money experts who do good.

From working closely with the Ranyaka team to develop new ways of bringing about sustainable, positive socio-economic impact, engaging first-hand with beneficiary communities, championing the model in the boardrooms where decisions are made and strategizing with programme stakeholders and co-funders, Nina has been part of the process every step of the way – and continues to do so.

Within Nedbank, Nina has inspired other members of management, branch staff, mobile bankers, trainers and what we refer to as ‘brand ambassadors’ to not only rally behind the idea of PoMT, but to get involved hands-on. To build authentic relationships in the communities where these branches do business. To engage. To volunteer. To connect. To demonstrate in a myriad of tangible ways what it means to be part of a group of money experts who do good.

William Bila (Ranyaka Board Member), Nina Wellsted (Nedbank), Johan Olivier (Ranyaka CEO), Clarah Ndlovu (Ranyaka Board Member) and Poovi Pillay (Nedbank) at the launch of Proud of my Town in Paarl in 2017.

Visiting ECD centres in Mbekweni township, Paarl in the Western Cape

Community connection

In 2014, Nina and a team of colleagues from Nedbank head office joined in the very first Magalies Make-Over. They were unafraid to get their hands dirty, quite literally, to plant seedlings in the first vegetable tunnels at Mphe Thuto Primary School. It was clear from day one that this was no photo opportunity. Nina was there to get the job done. To observe, to understand, to connect – and to identify potential.

Fast forward four years to a Nedbank community activation in the town of Klapmuts in the Western Cape. One thousand community members joined in the occasion and the team of volunteers from Ranyaka and local Nedbank branches had their work cut out for them. Looking at the photos after the event, we discovered a stolen image of Nina spreading bread rolls for the queue of some 500 children. Because it needed to be done – and because Nina is as comfortable at serving as she is at leading a team.

Nina and team members ready to tackle a vegetable garden in Magaliesburg as part of the 2014 Magalies Make-Over

All hands on deck at the Nedbank activation held in Klapmuts in the Western Cape in 2018.


A year later, Nina joined the Ranyaka team at the PoMT nodal roll-out workshops in Kanyamazane and Boitekong in Nelspruit and Rustenburg respectively where (as she had already done at countless workshops, meetings and site visits before that) she once again spent time immersed in the conversations of community members, gaining a deep understanding of the context, challenges and opportunities that these townships face.

In the Western Cape, the principals of 40 Early Childhood Development centres know Nina by name. And for them, Nina represents a bank that cares and is enabling them to take their ECD centres to the next level, not only as facilities that look after children, but as small businesses in their own right.

At every interaction and event, Nina demonstrates her unique ability to connect on a very personal level, garnering loyalty and conveying compassion, whilst at the same time, keeping the bigger picture and strategic business objectives in mind.

Striking that balance between on-the-ground involvement, working with the implementation team to constantly refine the model – and ensuring that the business mandate of Nedbank as the programme funder is supported throughout, can be no easy task.

Visiting ECD centres in Paarl and Stellenbosch. Proud of my  Town currently supports 68 centres in the Western Cape and North-West provinces.

Graduation & celebration function for Early Childhood Development (ECD) principal centres in Paarl

Bridging the divide

Across the world, the non-profit sector faces the challenge of dealing with funders who may not always have an in-depth understanding of what it takes to get the job done on ground level. In very few cases, if any, is the funder actually involved in the development of the very model that drives the practical work being done.

In the person of Nina Wellsted, the Ranyaka team has found not only that person who bridges the divide between Ranyaka as the NPO and Nedbank as the funder.

Meeting members of the Nedbank Umlazi team in KwaZulu-Natal in preparation of the Umlazi nodal roll-out in 2021

We have found a partner who demonstrates strong leadership and offers wise counsel – to the benefit of implementation agent and funder alike; and above all, to the benefit of the communities we collectively seek to serve.

Quite simply put, without Nina Wellsted and the support of Poovi Pillay and the rest of her leadership team within Nedbank who have co-championed the idea of a holistic community transformation model, Proud of my Town would not exist.

Johan Olivier (Ranyaka CEO) and Nina Wellsted

Proud partners

Because every great idea needs resources to cross the bridge from idea to implementation – and crossing that bridge is no easy task.

Crossing it alone is virtually impossible.

But with the right partners, anything is possible.

Thank you, Nina.

Maggie Tsotetsi (Ranyaka Executive Director) and Nina Wellsted