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A New Model for Helping South Africa’s Most Vulnerable Children

The founders of the Ubuntu Education Fund in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, realized early on that that a fresh approach was needed to help the thousands of vulnerable South African children they met; children who were orphaned by AIDS, suffering from emotional trauma of rape, HIV positive, and more.

Instead of making one-time donations that have limited impact, the founders committed themselves to creating an organization that would provide children with long-term  educational advancement and emotional support. Beginning in 7th grade, students enter after-school programs that prepare them for entry into the country’s top universities—a commitment that lasts for ten years or more. They study at a state-of-the-art health and education facility in Zwide Township that features a theater, computer laboratory, and an HIV/TB clinic. Most of the staff originates from the same community they serve – leading to strong bonds with students that continue with quarterly visits to campus once they enroll at a university.

The fund’s intense focus on individual achievement is serving as a blueprint for organizations around the world. But it takes sustained financial commitment. Its Co-founder Jacob Lief has been designated a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum. When appearing on ABC News, he was asked to name his biggest challenge. He said: convincing donors that to see real change they needed to invest in the same materials for children in South Africa that they provide for their own children. With over 40,000 lives having been transformed, it’s an investment that seems to be yielding a very high-rate of return.