How an unlikely 15-year partnership between an American college graduate and a South African schoolteacher created a model nonprofit to help stabilize and educate children in the poorest townships.
While working at an after-school program in the local schools as a college student during his 1998 summer break, Lief, who is now on the Clinton Global Initiative advisory board, recognized his mission to improve the lives of the impoverished children of a Port Elizabeth township. He learned about this deeply troubled landscape—still reeling from the wounds of apartheid and wracked by cyclical afflictions of “poverty, crime, bad schools, and no jobs”—from the gregarious, gracious Malizole “Banks” Gwaxula, a schoolteacher who secured the author a job at his school, the severely overcrowded and understaffed Emfundweni Primary School. The sight of children heating rocks in makeshift fires along the dirt roads at 4 a.m. in order to iron their school clothes jolted the privileged young white student. When Lief returned to the United States and graduated, he was able to convince many affluent people to help subsidize the nonprofit project he and Gwaxula called Ubuntu Education Fund (ubuntu is the concept of shared humanity that allowed Gwaxula initially to welcome the white stranger). Yet simply furnishing the school with a computer lab did not ease the essential crisis plaguing the lives of these children—namely, a very shaky family structure eviscerated by the AIDS epidemic and poverty. Thus, Lief and Gwaxula realized the need to generate more creative ideas, from building a library and teaching about health and sexual abuse to creating a community center with a theater and career and health centers. Lief's straightforward yet moving work delineates step by step how their initial good intentions became a powerful tool for transforming young lives.
A useful hands-on resource for development visionaries.