Inyathelo in the Headlines

The glitz of giving - 10 Nov 2013 - City Press

Gayle Edmunds

Rhino poaching is my responsibility. Rhino poaching is your responsibility. Rhino poaching is our responsibility," said the eight-year old recipient of this year's Children in Philanthropy award at the 2013 Inyathelo Philanthropy Awards. Afeefah Patel, dressed in a sparkly pink dress with her hair in a bun, has already grasped the meaning of life - we all have to do our bit to make our world better.

There were eight awards given out on the night to some pretty amazing people.

Patrick Mashanda has a centre where children can come and do their homework, play and be cared for. He was honoured with an award in Youth Philanthropy.

Mavis Mathabatha received the 2013 Inyathelo Award for Philanthropy in Food Security for growing Moringa trees to feed the children of her Limpopo home town.

Tich and Joan Smith, who were honoured for their contribution to community development, have built a village where 150 vulnerable children live, play and learn in rural KwaZulu-Natal.

The awards were handed out at the grand old Cape Town City Hall, the place where Nelson Mandela delivered his first speech after his release in 1990.

The venue's magnificent organ, which fills one wall and rises up to the ceiling of the cavernous hall in an orderly array of brass pipes, played as the 500-odd guests took their seats. Later, the Cape Town Youth Orchestra took over the entertainment, showing the illustrious audience how they too are giving back by mentoring the Masidlale Strings Project.

These children were killer on their violins, prompting MC Refiloe Seseane - a past Inyathelo awardee and former soapie star who started the organisation 18twenty8 to empower young women - to remark that they are proof that "Mozart wasn't the only child prodigy".

The tuxedoed and sequined crowd was indeed illustrious. There were representatives of some of South Africa's wealthiest families, like the Ackermans and the Oppenheimers. There were professors - Wits' Adam Habib and the University of Cape Town's Lungisile Ntsebeza, who is also on the Inyathelo board - as well as representatives from foundations based across the seas and in other parts of Africa.

The founder of the Hilde Back Foundation in Kenya, Chris Mburu, was delighted with the event; and the president of New York-based Atlantic Philanthropies, Christopher Oechsli, was moved by the stories and had his own to tell about the origins of The Giving Pledge.

Performers from the Zip Zap Circus School wowed the crowd. The school's founder, Fiona Nel, was honoured with an award for her work in youth development.

The only sobering note on the night was the address by the keynote speaker Jonathan Schrire, who explained the ugly side of trying to give. He chronicled his foundation's battles to deliver houses and schools to communities held hostage by bullies and opportunistic politicians in the ruling party, who he named and deservedly shamed to loud laughs.

This annual awards ceremony is an initiative not to find winners, as Inyathelo's head Shelagh Gastrow says, but to recognise givers, which in turn encourages others to give. But most of all, this glittering affair was a celebration of what individuals are doing to effect real social change.