Monday, 08 June 2009

Marlon Parker’s Reconstructed Project launches online debt counselling

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CPUT lecturer Marlon Parker, who founded The Reconstructed Project, the country’s first online mobile drug counseling service, has introduced another first for South Africa – online debt counseling.

Parker, a lecturer in the Faculty of Informatics and Design, who made headlines with his online drug counselling services, said they are now extending their services to South Africans who are feeling the economic crunch.

In 2007, he launched The Reconstructed Project, which saw reformed gangsters and drug addicts provide advice and counselling services to individuals via social media, such as blogs and cellphone chat rooms.

Similar to the drug and social counseling services, those in debt will be able to use their cellphones to chat to registered debt counselors, who will be based with The Reconstructed Project at The Impact Centre in Bridgetown .

“Many people we have come into contact with at the centre are in debt. We also realised that debt caused a lot of problems in communities.” he said.

According to recent statistics, an estimated 12 million South Africans are over-indebted.

Although South Africans have the legal right to approach debt counselors, who can act as mediators between them and their creditors, many are not making use of their services.

“Over-Indebted consumers are often afraid to approach a debt counselor,” he said.

Others are not aware of the services offered by debt couselors or their legal rights.

With this service, consumers will have access to free advice regarding debt.

“Your conversation is confidential and anonymous allowing you to have the liberty to address the debt issues you, family or friends are experiencing,” he said.

Those who use this service will have free access to financial assessments.

Debt Breaker would also be able to refer subscribers to registered debt counselors across South Africa .

Parker is positive that this service, like the existing ones, will impact on the community.

In April, the Reconstructed blog, which is used by reformed gangsters and drug addicts to spread a message of hope, clinched second place in a national blog competition.

“Just to be mentioned in the same breath with blogs such as SARocks, Thought Leader (by Mail and Guardian), Moral Fibre and all the others is a humbling experience for us,” he said.

Parker said this achievement highlighted that through using a simple medium such as blogging and other social media, their lives as well as the individuals who make use of the service, has been changed.

Various other initiatives are lined up for this year, including the launch of the Althone Living Lab, which will promote Information and Communication Technology development.

The lab is collaboration between Impact Direct, Bridgetown Community, CPUT and supported by COFISA.

Later this year he will also travel to the United Kingdom , where he will deliver a keynote address on these activities at a conference.

For more information on Debt Counseling or any of the other services offered by The Reconstructed contact parkerm@cput.ac.za

By Candes Keating

Photos: (clockwise) A screen capture from Debt Breaker, the new online mobile debt counselling service offered by The Reconstructed Project; Faculty of Informatics and Design lecturer Marlon Parker; The Impact Centre in Bridgetown is home to The Reconstructed Project.

Written by CPUT News

Email: news@cput.ac.za