Ubuntu Global Connections, a Massachusetts based 501(c)3 non-profit organization, supports South African non-profits that are working hard to eliminate the deep iniquities persistent in post-apartheid South Africa today. By connecting these grassroots organizations with American resources and energy, Ubuntu Global Connections seeks to play a supportive and compassionate role, facilitating further progress and development in some of South Africa’s most scarred and challenged communities.
This little word holds a big and powerful meaning, especially for South Africans. At its most simple, ubuntu [ˌo͝oˈbo͝on(t)o͞o] is the enduring spirit of human kindness and compassion, and speaks to the deep interconnectedness of all humanity. It embodies the ideas of harmony, community, and mutual caring for all. We stand together. Loosely translated, it is essentially “I am because you are.”
The concept of Ubuntu became more broadly known in the 1990s through the writings of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize winner, and a renowned leader of the anti-apartheid movement. He describes ubuntu thus: “Ubuntu is very difficult to render into a Western language. It speaks of the very essence of being human. When we want to give high praise to someone we say, ‘Yu, u nobunto’; ‘Hey, so-and-so has ubuntu.’ Then you are generous, you are hospitable, you are friendly and caring and compassionate. You share what you have. It is to say, ‘My humanity is inextricably bound up in yours.’ We belong in a bundle of life.” (from Tutu’s memoir No Future Without Forgiveness).
When Amy Gleason founded Ubuntu Global Connections, she felt that this deeply significant word, so close to the hearts and history of many South Africans, perfectly embraced the spirit of connectivity and empathy that she sought for the organization. Since its formation, Ubuntu Global Connections has sent donations from Americans of more than $350,000 in support of its partner non-profit organizations.
A beautiful and diverse tapestry of different peoples, colors, religions and races, South Africa today is a work-in-progress towards quality of life and equality for all in this most beautiful of countries.
Yet, twenty-six years after the end of apartheid, the social and political disparities of that brutal regime continue to cripple the daily lives of many South African blacks. Unemployment, lack of education, crushing poverty and fundamental inequality blight the lives and prospects of millions. The statistics are bleak, with unemployment currently at 27% and rising to a shocking 60% for young people aged 15-24. This is a direct result of an under-resourced and inadequate education system, especially in the Limpopo, Gauteng and Eastern Cape regions, where less than half of black children even attend school. Add to this, the world’s highest rates of HIV/AIDS, a disease which orphans hundreds of children every year, and it becomes clear that the country’s path to a brighter future is fraught with roadblocks.
The good news is that there is incredible energy for change in South Africa today. Passionate South Africans of every race are working tirelessly to improve the country’s infrastructure at a grassroots level, building schools and supporting struggling communities with resources and aid. The fact is, South Africa needs a lot of help. So what can we do? Here in America, we have an opportunity to make a meaningful connection with these hardworking South Africans. By supporting their work and vision for a better country, we can create partnerships for change that will make a real difference for those who need it most.