by: Giuseppina Marchese
“A smile is the light in your window that tells others that there is a caring, sharing person inside.” – Denis Waitley
South Africa is a nation with a rich history of philanthropy. Many charities in South Africa are based around the idea of Ubuntu. Ubuntu is a word used to describe the notion that a person cannot exist without the help of their community; “I am; because of you” (May). Although the concept of Ubuntu has been around for centuries, it was introduced to the Western world in the 1990’s through the writings of Cape Town archbishop Desmond Tutu. Nelson Mandela was asked to define Ubuntu in a 2006 interview where he described it as being a traveler passing through a village and not having to ask for food or water because, just by stopping in a village, the villagers would give him the nourishment that he needed (May). Ubuntu reminds me of the saying “It takes a village to raise a child” in the sense that if a child is to grow and mature they will need the help of family and friends, teachers and principals, doctors and many other members of their community. The child will be because of the help of these people, Ubuntu.
The Smile Foundation is one of many South African charities that are based on the concept of Ubuntu. Started in 2000 as the Smile Fund, it came about when a parent wrote many letters to Nelson Mandela asking for his help to send their child overseas for Facial Reanimation surgery to correct the child’s facial paralysis (“How Smile Foundation Began” 2014). The Lubner family became involved and saw a potential for growth in the South African medical community. They brought the doctors who were performing these surgeries to South Africa to train South African doctors so that other children could benefit from the cosmetic procedure (“How Smile Foundation Began” 2014). The non-profit organization was renamed in 2013 as the Smile Foundation. Working with many South African doctors and nurses, the Smile Foundation literally puts smiles on the faces of children (“How Smile Foundation Began” 2014). They are allowing these children the gift to enjoy their childhood without being teased and tormented for their physical appearance. Because of this, I believe the Smile Foundation embodies the idea of Ubuntu. In a world that puts so much emphasis on physical beauty, these children would probably not be able to blossom to their full potential if not for the work of this foundation. They are saving the children from a lifetime of being teased and bullied, therefore helping them build their self-esteem and one day growing up to be successful adults.
Ubuntu has helped to make South Africa a better place. This concept of philanthropy was the basis to the Smile Foundation and who knows how many other South African charities. All nations should adopt the concept of Ubuntu: “I am; because of you.” People would be more inclined to give if they saw their donation as a thank you for all the work the community has done for them.
How smile foundation began. (2014). The Smile Foundation. Retrieved September 22, 2014, from http://www.smilefoundationsa.org/about-us/how-smile-foundation-began/
May, K.T. (2013, December 9). I am, because of you: Further reading on Ubuntu. Tedblog. Retrieved September 22, 2014 from http://blog.ted.com/2013/12/09/further-reading-on-ubuntu/