What does it take to become a philanthropist? I often wonder if you have to have millions of dollars, know the right people, move to a third world country, or maybe just throw everything I have into what I believe.
The philanthropists I know of are actresses, actors, investors, successful business people; like Warren Buffett, Oprah, or Angelina Joli. But what about the “regular” people who want to make a difference but find it almost impossible because everything costs loads of money?
That’s where I find myself. I’m in my early thirties, a single mother, rarely have excess monies, and am usually trying to help those who are less fortunate. I think I have found my calling in life (other than being a mother) and want to help children without a bright future.
Two years ago I was introduced to a small, run down orphanage in the township of Tembisa, in South Africa. My parents served an LDS mission in Johannesburg, South Africa for eighteen months. While on their mission, they volunteered and took this humble orphanage under their wings until it was time to return to the States.
The Bulamahalo orphanage belongs to a sweet and selfless woman named Regana Sekgobela. She is sixty-eight and has been taking care and raising parent-less children for the last twenty-three years. “Mama” (as they call Regana) is a seamstress. She is so talented and has put her sewing talent to rest to take care of ten – thirty children in the township of Tembisa. A widow and a mother to two son’s, Mama’s life is surrounded by little brown faces; tiny babies up to young adults. Mama never turns anyone away and never says no. She would literally give the shirt off her back.
My parents shared Mama’s story and the needs of the children with me March of 2011. From the first story my mom told me, I knew I had to do something. The fact that these children do not have food to eat on a regular basis was enough for me to drop what I was doing and go to action. They were lucky if they had two meals a day. These meals consist of “pap” and maybe some chicken scrapes to add flavor. No treats, no snacks, no nutrients. My heart sank.
What can I do? How can I do it? Where am I going to get money to help these children? Who will help me, help them? I don’t have the money to start this project. Does this have to be something major? Small? Do I want it to grow and become so large I can’t wrap my brain around it? Will this work? Yes, this is going to work. Why? Because I believe in it.
I started researching. I looked up how to become a “non profit”. What it takes, what you need to do, who needs to be involved. To my surprise it’s very difficult to become a non profit. There are so many forms, steps, council with attorneys, pay loads of money, tax forms, etc etc. All I want to do is raise money to feed helpless orphans in South Africa … and it seemed impossible.
I’d be lying if I didn’t say I wasn’t discouraged after researching. I couldn’t figure out why there were so many things to get in order just to make it so people can write off their donations. I wondered why people couldn’t just donate to donate. It seemed to go against the whole idea of being selfless and choosing to help those less fortunate. I was expecting much. In fact, I didn’t have any set expectations or goal of how much money I wanted to raise. You see, the difference between the U.S. dollar and the South African Rand is different that one U.S. dollar is eight Rand. So $6.00 in the U.S. would be about R70. That’s a lot of money to people in South Africa.
We got to work and we’re only looking forward. One of my friends came up with the name Tembisa Tots. It was perfect! My little girl was excited to help and get her class involved too.
If all of my Facebook friends (over 1100 people) would donate $5, that would be an easy $5,000 to go toward the Tembisa Tots. That would feed the kids for over 4 years. We can feed those children a decent meal(s) for about $200 a month! A month!
The fall of 2011, we started fundraising. Starting at a grass roots level we were on our way. Philanthropists have to start somewhere, right?! From home made poster making, cutting flyers, bake sales, presenting at schools, giving presentations within the community, creating a website, Facebook page, YouTube channel, and help from family and friends we were gaining momentum.
I was so energized. I was loving every minute of planning, updating posts, photos, making videos, spreading the word. All I wanted to do was get more and more people to hear our story and fall in love with these little children I hadn’t even met yet.
We had made plans to visit my parents in December and most excitingly meet Mama and the kids! We were going to visit for about 3 weeks.
With the help from friends, family, people I hadn’t ever met before, we were able to raise about $2,500. I was so pleased with that and couldn’t wait to share it with Mama and those children.
That was the start of this wonderful and life changing journey… and I can’t seem to stop! I hope I can continue helping Mama and these children. I just have to keep thinking of ways to generate a larger audience.