Port Elizabeth, South Africa has a human crisis. In Its townships, 4.1 million children are orphaned. Their parents had HIV/AIDS. Unemployment is high, and poverty runs rampant. The presence of sexual exploitation destroys one’s dignity. The children need everything and receive nothing.
However, there was a small breath of hope in the written word. Knowledge nourishes the spirit and provides hope and inspiration. The Ubuntu Education Fund was founded by Jacob Lief and Malizole “Banks” Gwaxula in 1999. They quickly realized that by distributing education materials to orphaned and unprotected children were but a mere beginning. The whole social structure of the Port Elizabeth community of 400,000 had to change.
Ubuntu dramatically laid down a plan to restructure the community in providing a means to stabilize households, and offer health and educational services. Results were achieved after unrelenting work over a ten year period.
Making permanent changes in the Port Elizabeth community required significant funding which seemed near impossible. Andrew Rolfe took an interest in the Ubuntu Education Fund. Mr. Rolfe is a highly respected person and financially successful in his business ventures. He founded Prêt A Manger, a fast food enterprise which established ties with McDonald’s. Further, he founded Gap, a clothing company. Rolfe’s food company is more upscale than McDonald’s. Prêt A Manger is on the same business level as Starbucks and Subway sandwiches.
Mr. Rolfe injected his business acumen in the Ubuntu Education Fund and is the fund’s Chairman. Even with the probability of good and continuous funding, the work of the Ubuntu Education Fund is still not complete. The education system is marred by teacher shortages, overflowing classrooms, and school closings. Further, the lack of uniforms contributes to the children’s dropout rate.
The Ubuntu Education Fund has a home, the Ubuntu Centre. The center is a 25,000 square-foot headquarters. Thus, Ubuntu can provide an array of services including a pediatric HIV clinic, pharmacy, classrooms, computer labs, theater, and rooftop garden.
Each step Ubuntu takes gives the people of Port Elizabeth hope. They have earned the right to live their life with a sense of dignity.