by Elizabeth Glanville
ON 17 May the Ubuntu Education Fund held its fifth annual London gala in support of its u.me.we campaign, with a parallel event taking place in New York next month.
With Archbishop Desmond Tutu as their patron, Ubuntu is currently working with more than 2,000 children in Port Elizabeth. The organisation’s focus is within a concentrated geographical region and it believes in quality over quantity, aiming to not only touch children’s lives but to transform them through their cradle-to-career pathway model. Ubuntu works with children on a daily basis at every step of their development and provides such essentials as pencils and clothing to HIV treatment, holiday camps and career guidance.
On arrival at the Sorting Office on New Oxford Street, guests were greeted with an array of cocktails, champagne, canapés and oysters in a faux-township setting. Fairy lights were strung over the heads of attendees balancing jam jars of cocktails on upturned oil drums, while names such as James Caan, Lucia Van der Post and Dr Zola Skweyiya, High Commissioner of the Republic of South Africa, mingled and posed for photos.
Dinner was accompanied by music from singer Marques Toliver and the award-winning Beverley Knight, MBE. Between courses guests heard from Jacob Lief and Malizole Banks Gwaxula (co-founders of the Ubuntu Education Fund), Ubuntu educator and counsellor Nomawehtu Siswana and 15-year-old Ubuntu scholar Farelani Raulimi. She lost her father to HIV at the age of six and her mother a few years later, and has been supported by the organisation since she was eight. She spoke to the 450 guests without notes and with unwavering clarity and self-assuredness. Raulimi told how, through Ubuntu’s unbridled support, she has already achieved her dream of becoming a writer. She now aspires to be a chartered accountant; without doubt she will become one of the best.
Siswana brought silence to the room as she retold her life story of abuse, disease and bereavement with tears pouring down her cheeks. However her eyes visibly lit up when she spoke about her involvement with Ubuntu where, thanks to their community focus, she no longer feels alone. “Connecting to other human beings is not a modern concept brought about by Facebook,” she sagely observed. “In Africa we worked this out a long time ago. This is Ubuntu.”
The theme was expounded upon by Raulimi, “Ubuntu is how we live in South Africa,” she asserted. “We don’t have resources, but we have each other.’ A standing ovation saw her offstage and she was later spotted leading the guests in dancing to the music of Irish soul band The Stars from the Commitments, as she brought Ubuntu in its rawest form to one of the corporate capitals of the world.
A live auction, hosted by Charlie Ross of BBC’s ‘Flog It’ fame, raised over £100,000. The live pledges more than doubled that total and funds will continue to pour in over the coming weeks. Last year the twin galas raised £750,000 and enabled Ubuntu to build an HIV paediatric clinic.
This year the contributions will go towards the recently-opened Early Childhood Development Programme, which intends to provide orphaned and vulnerable youngsters with the head start they need to begin school with skills comparable to their peers in London and New York.
Add your donation to Ubuntu now to contribute to their valuable work and give children like Farelani Raulimi the start in life that they deserve: www.ubuntufund.org