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Change beginning in a broom closet

It started in a broom closet. In a school. In the township of Ibhayi of Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Where HIV/AIDS and extreme poverty pervaded the community and limited the lives of men, women, and children, making it almost impossible to access basic healthcare, education, and even daily meals.

In 1999 Banks Gwaxula, a native of Port Elizabeth, South Africa and his partner Jacob Leif, of the United States had a vision: to give children born into poverty stricken townships the right to accessible healthcare and education.  Together, they founded the Non-profit organization, TheUbuntu Fund, with their office located in a tiny broom closet in a school Gwaxula worked at. Today, 14 years later, the work they created in that small broom closet has transformed into an inspiring and highly effective non-profit, with real offices in South Africa, London and the New York City.

The word “Ubuntu,” a Xhosa philosophy is the idea that, “I am because you are.” This idea of interconnectedness among humans transpires in the work Gwaxula does through The Ubuntu Fund.The Ubuntu Fund aims to “Help raise township children by providing what all children deserve-everything.” The Ubuntu center in Port Elizabeth provides over 2,000 children free medication, clinical consultations, vaccinations, HIV and TB testing and treatment, nutritional advice and supplements, glasses, interventions for HIV positive pregnant women, and daily meals from their own organic garden.  TheUbuntu Fund states, “We give them the same care that we would give our own children. This includes basic necessities that should be every child’s right; health care, a roof over his or her head, someone to talk to, books and pens and school uniforms, and the time to play, imagine, and enjoy being a kid.”

Banks Gwaxula, who began his career as a schoolteacher in Port Elizabeth, is now an internationally known health and education provider, whose work changes the lives of underprivileged children. He truly is a model global citizen, and an inspiration to us all.  And to think, all this great work started in a broom closet.

by Sofia Van Raan, for the Global Poverty Project