Wow, what a Silver Lining to learn about Jacob Lief and the Ubuntu Education Fund in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Their mission is “to help raise Port Elizabeth’s orphaned and vulnerable children by giving them what all children deserve—everything.” Now if this sounds a little grand, let me tell you that it’s actually not. The Ubuntu Model is a unique and internationally recognized approach to philanthropy because they are redefining the theory of going to scale. By focusing on the depth rather than the breadth of impact, the Ubuntu Model operates at society’s most basic unit—the family. They commit to children by creating individualized, flexible plans to address the challenges they face. Their model’s guiding philosophy is inherently simple; it is innovative only because very few organizations operate on this principle.
As Lief said, “A bigger-faster-cheapter mentality permeates this (nonprofit) industry. They try to quantify impact by output: ‘How many textbooks did a nonprofit distribute?’ ‘How many bed nets to prevent malaria?’ In the beginning we also adopted this model; we built libraries and computer labs. But as months passed I watched students with new textbooks fall behind academically because they were too hungry to focused. I realized that we were addressing only the facets of poverty.” So the fund provides food security, medical services, psychosocial support, career guidance and more.
The Should Your Birthplace Determine Your Future? photo exhibit came about when children enrolled in Ubuntu’s Early Childhood Development program were asked about their dreams and hopes for their futures. The young childhood aspirations that they told are brought to life by Tim Hans in these photographs, taken in front of their homes. In these images, we vividly see the stark contrast between the impoverished community in which these children live, and their high hopes for a future bursting with opportunity. The Ubuntu Education Fund and Diplomatic Courier (a sponsor of the initiative) fundamentally believe that each child’s dreams should become reality depending not on where they are from, but on what is inside them. How great is that?!?!
The result is an inspiring, hopeful and engaging photo series that will be on display at Manhattan’s Chelsea Market early next year. This is such a unique, iconoclastic approach to seeing the potential of children.