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Many South Africans are using their participation in sporting activities from running marathons to climbing mountains to raise awareness and funds for social causes and to make a difference in society. Supported by the reach and popularity of social media as well as crowdfunding platforms, these initiatives have the increased potential to influence meaningful change.

Combining my passion for extreme desert running with philanthropy and raising awareness for social causes, I will be running 250 kilometres as part of the Kalahari Augrabies Extreme Marathon (KAEM) from 20-26 October 2018 to raise funds for the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital (NMCH). The race takes place in the Kalahari Desert in the proximity of the Augrabies Falls on the Orange River.

Inspired by Madiba’s love for children, and built in honour of his legacy, NMCH is a world-class tertiary specialist referral paediatric hospital based in Parktown, Johannesburg. The 200-bed facility is only the second dedicated children’s hospital in Southern Africa and admitted its first patients in June 2017.

NMCH has already treated over 1 000 children in need of surgical and life-saving interventions as a result of complex illnesses and continues to phase in operations. The hospital is committed to rendering exceptional service to all children of Southern Africa and no child, regardless of socio-economic circumstances, who is appropriately referred to the facility is turned away.

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I have always loved sport – as a participant and fan – and in 2010 I discovered the crazy sport of desert running.

There is something unique to running self-supported and in extreme conditions in remote corners of the world such as the Sahara, Gobi, Atacama, and Antarctica, covering distances of a marathon or more on four or five consecutive days. It is a tough and often painful experience but making it to the finish line is a fantastic feeling and deeply satisfying.

However, my participation in these races has always been about more than just overcoming the physical and mental challenges associated with these events.  I have worked with NGOs and other entities involved with development and social justice efforts in Africa for the past 25 years. My desert running adventures therefore provide me with an opportunity to support organisations of interest to me and to make a difference.

I have used my desert runs in the recent past to support the work of organisations such as the ONE Campaign in Africa, Greenpeace Africa, The Sunflower Fund and the END Fund, covering a diverse range of issues such as poverty, climate change, leukaemia and the fight against neglected tropical diseases.

South Africa boasts thousands of “charity champions” – people such as Saray Khumalo, Dean Wight and Andrew Patterson, to name a few, with incredible stories of endurance, sacrifice and commitment to helping others and doing good.

But not everyone can or has to run a marathon or climb a mountain to support a good cause or make a difference in society. By developing an interest in the issues facing our local communities, and finding out which organisations are active around us, it becomes easier to determine who or what requires support and where to best channel our efforts.

As former president Mandela once said, “A fundamental concern for others in our individual and community lives would go a long way in making the world the better place we so passionately dreamt of.”

As part of my participation in the KAEM, and in support of Madiba’s legacy, I aim to raise R250 000 for NMCH to enable more children to benefit from the hospital.

It only requires 2 500 people to donate a minimum of R100 each to reach this target, and I’m challenging all South Africans to support this important campaign and the work of NMCH.

As a public benefit organisation, the hospital has a unique funding model as it only receives operational funding from the government to treat public patients and independently fundraises to support its capital expenses. As a result, it requires ongoing public support to expand and sustain its services.

Running 250 kilometres through the Kalahari Desert in extreme heat and sand will be a tough challenge, but I’m inspired by this cause and the belief that together we can achieve this target. Nothing will give me greater pleasure than honouring Madiba’s legacy and centennial birthday in this manner.

My fundraising campaign will run from 10 October to 27 November 2018, to coincide with Giving Tuesday, an annual global initiative aimed at encouraging social giving.

Click here to make a donation and follow my campaign on social media via #DesertRun4NMCH.

David Barnard is the first African to have completed a multi-stage desert race on all seven continents. He boasts an extensive background in civil society and worked on development programmes across Africa.

When asked what my motivation is for participating in extreme desert running events since 2010, my answer is two-fold. Yes, there is the personal challenge and satisfaction of completing these races. But the main reason for my participation is to raise money, support and awareness for NGOs and social causes at the forefront of addressing Africa’s development challenges.

My next desert race is the six-day, 250km Fire and Ice Ultra from 27 August – 1 September 2018 in Iceland. It will be my tenth desert race, and if successful, I will become the first African, and one of only a small group of people, to complete a multi-stage desert race on all seven continents.

But beyond achieving a special running milestone, my participation in the Fire and Ice Ultra is also another opportunity to support organisations making a difference in Africa.

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Given my involvement with various African NGOs over the past 25 years, both professionally and through my desert running efforts, I am dedicating my participation in this race not to a single cause or organisation, but to the African NGO sector in general.

It is an opportunity to celebrate NGOs’ unique contributions across the continent, generate support and awareness for their work, and reflect on the state of the sector.

As of today, for the next 50 days until the start of the race on 27 August 2018, I will implement the #NGOs4Africa Campaign which will consist of the following components:

  • Publishing profiles of 50 African NGOs that I have admired, supported or worked with over the years;
  • Publishing 20 guest articles by NGO leaders and experts about critical challenges and opportunities facing NGOs in Africa;
  • Publishing 15 articles about people using sport to raise awareness and support for good causes in Africa;
  • Publishing regular updates about my training and preparations for the race, including updates about my campaign.

I will publish all these profiles and articles on my blog – https://desert2desert4socialcauses.com – and other online platforms, and promote them via social media (#NGOs4Africa). I will also participate in various media interviews (e.g., television, radio, print, etc.) in support of the objectives of the campaign.

I hope the various NGO profiles and articles will provide the followers of the #NGOs4Africa Campaign, and the general public, with the necessary context and insights to better understand and appreciate the work of NGOs in Africa.

The following paragraph, which I wrote in October 2010 after completing my first desert race, the 250km Kalahari Augrabies Extreme Marathon (KAEM), captures my personal experience and views on the connection between running a gruelling desert race and working in the NGO sector:

“Preparing for the KAEM and running the race is very much like managing an NGO in South Africa and many other developing country contexts. It is often a very demanding, lonely, frustrating position, with long hours and much time away from home and family. There is always more to do than what time and resources allow for; the challenges at hand are always more difficult and complicated than expected; there are no short-cuts for success; and the funding and support environment is challenging and unpredictable. But the people who work in this sector understand values and characteristics of integrity, determination and service, and the belief that only hard work and dedication will bring about change and improvement in the lives of our people. These are the reasons why we work in the NGO sector, and why NGOs are at the forefront of the fight for social justice, while at the same time providing much needed social services to millions of South Africans.” 

These sentiments inspire me to continue using my participation in desert races for generating awareness and support for African NGOs.

I invite you to follow my #NGOs4Africa Campaign and share information in this regard in your networks.

David Barnard
9 July 2018

Dear Comedians,
 
I reflect on some comedy where you unashamedly ‘go to town’ literally poking fun at the disability sector and its limitations with particular reference to our sexuality. That your audience took no notice of your blatant insult to the disability community and instead exploded in roars of laughter exposes stereotypes that are permanently visited on people with disabilities, some of whom are mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, cousins, nephews and nieces, etc. of able-bodied persons. Question is: how did we get to this point?
 
In case you were not aware, identity can be structured upon shared social experience; that there are fixed identities of persons with disabilities; and that the self plays a significant role in the formation of identity. However, it is important for you to understand the rhetoric versus practical realities in order to assess what can free persons with disabilities from fixed identities that have been enforced overtime by regulatory regimes embodied in cultural and societal prejudices.
 
As would be adequately articulated below in tandem with the gist of this letter, a person with disability has the capability of constructing a self-identity not constituted in impairment but rather independent of it, and of accepting impairment as a reality that he or she lives with without losing a sense of self. Therefore, disability in a socio-cultural context can be defined as a barrier to participation of people with impairments or chronic illnesses arising from an interaction of the impairment or illness with discriminatory attitudes, cultures, policies or institutional practices.
 
The traditional view of disability often focuses on the individual, highlighting incapacities or failings, a defect, or impairment. This narrow focus creates obstacles to participation on equal terms since an individual who seems to lack certain capacities may not be able to attain autonomy.
 
Society often does not take into account the ways in which impairment is part of humanity. Instead, it views the effects of impairment as obstacles. This emanates from the interaction between persons with disabilities and society. Society desires that a person with a disability fit into societal structures, rather than structures fitting into the person's with disability needs.
 
You will recall that from time to time contemporary society has regarded impairment as a handicap. In essence, the idea of a ‘handicap’ is a form of discrimination that has social origins. This creates disadvantages that persons with disabilities experience not necessarily as emanating from some biological determination but rather from socially, culturally, economically, and politically constructed obstacles.
 
Disability therefore becomes equivalent to social oppression within which government policies, state authorities, and institutions (including the arts) are all key factors in the formation of structures that oppress persons with disabilities.
 
The solution, however, is to give persons with disabilities citizenship rights and change society's material structure, since the oppressive mechanisms that transform impairments to disabilities are enhanced by structures that are embedded in ideas and attitudes of non-disabled persons.
 
The universal construct of the self is the product of the fact that every human being is aware of his individuality. It is a premise that human beings are consciously aware of their own lives and it is through reflexivity that we become aware of a consciously constructed self.
 
Self is seen as a universal human property, something that we must all possess and a characteristic that we must all develop. Self in this context enables us to reflect on who we are, whom we choose to identify with, and what we choose to do as matters of choice, not compulsion.
 
Group membership in this kind of reflection is no longer synonymous with identity formation. We are able to choose our identity and ignore and even reject identities fostered on us as a result of ascribed characteristics. We do all these by creation of narratives about the self which, provided we can sustain these narratives and work to maintain our sense of self.
 
As a person with a disability, I challenge the social construction of what is regarded as normal and a normal body and embrace the difference of a body with impairment as what is normal or not. Self-identity hence becomes a product of a conscious action that questions identity dominated by social ascription.
 
That my identity and sexuality therefore becomes the subject of hilarious satire (at least within your limited scope) thus exhibits so profoundly as a manifestation of deep-rooted prejudices that are visited upon the disability sector. It might be useful to remind you that in concert with sentiments expressed above, disability is not a choice but an occurrence or an ensemble of a number of forces at play, most of which unpalatable.
 
Challenging social systems, in which persons with disabilities are subordinated through relations that are contradictory to their own views of self, helps persons with disabilities to create self-identities that are far removed from biomedical models that present disability as tragedy. Furthermore, the self-identity created does not necessarily show off difference; is it not about celebrating difference or diversity, or taking pride in identity through labelling, but about defining disability in its own terms, under its own terms of reference.
 
In its 2011 Profile of Disability in South Africa, Statistics South Africa records that the degree of difficulty (disability) measure showed that females had the highest percentage of persons experiencing mild and severe difficulties across all types of difficulties except for communication, where both males and females had the same proportion of persons who had experienced mild difficulties. The population group profile shows that black Africans had the highest proportion of persons with disabilities (7.8 percent), followed by the white population group (6.5 percent). No variations were observed among the coloured and Indian/Asian population groups.
 
There is low labour market absorption of persons with disabilities. The degree of difficulty is related to economic participation, with increased difficulty being associated with a decrease in labour market participation. In five of the six functional domains, employment levels were highest among persons with no difficulty and lowest among persons with severe difficulties across the provinces.
 
Statistics South Africa further notes that the low representation of persons with disabilities in the work place leaves a number of questions unanswered: is it non-compliance, prejudice or insufficient skills, or a combination of factors including environmental obstacles, misconceptions and prejudice about capabilities of persons with disabilities to perform certain jobs remain one of the major obstacles to employment opportunities and their exclusion from opportunities for promotion in their careers.
 
The exclusion of persons with disabilities from work imposes a financial burden on their families, and often translates into impoverishment of individuals and households of persons with disabilities, particularly those in under-resourced communities.
 
Rights are formulated to protect aspects of human dignity. All human beings need rights to survive hard times. Despite the noble function that rights are expected to perform in human life, violation of the same rights is experienced from all directions. Most often the violation becomes so legitimate that the rights of persons with disabilities are seen as privileges and are thus not given adequate recognition.
 
Disability is both a human rights and social issue. Thus legitimising disability for the purpose of acknowledging capabilities and limitations becomes vital. Self-identity is more tested in this aspect because unless one is very sure of one's self and has formulated an adequate self-concept, the subject may not be sure of his or her own capabilities and limitations; they may be at a loss as to the relation between the extent of personal rights and dysfunctions. Consequences might include misconstruing rights for privileges and seeking a privilege as a right. A true positive identity should be able to distinguish the two and use the same to fight winning battles.
 
As persons with disability, we are able to choose our identity and ignore and even reject identities forced on us as a result of ascribed characteristics.
 
We do this by creation of narratives about the self, and provided we can sustain these narratives we are able to maintain our sense of self. Through this approach, the problems associated with conflating identities into essential, fixed, pre-ordained, singular categories can be avoided, such as the homogenisation of persons with disabilities into a singular group or the ascription of a single identity. As persons with disability, we are entitled to enjoyment of human rights and acquisition of dignity through these rights.
 
Developing strong self-identity and a positive self-concept empowered us to such an extent that fighting for our rights emanates from a clear understanding of the self, first as persons and secondly as members of a group of persons in similar circumstances. The actualisation of the self-concept would also enable us to fight for individual rights apart from group rights.
 
Moreover, group membership in this kind of understanding does not affect our self-identity formation. It has been and will hopefully continue to be a powerful and creative force, but as persons with disabilities, will need self-identity first and foremost to become a part and parcel of the wider group or movement. Special education, legislation, the media, and the Human Rights Commission can become spearheads in mobilising changes in attitudes and stereotypes that are so pervasive.
 
On your favourite subject of sex, you may be interested to know that research has shown that persons with disabilities may be denied the right to establish relationships and could also be forced into unwanted marriages, where they may be treated more as housekeepers or objects of abuse than as a member of the family. In many societies, social discrimination and stigma make it hard for young persons with disabilities to marry, particularly girls.
 
Considered in some societies as less eligible marriage partners, women with disabilities are more likely to live in a series of unstable relationships, and thus have fewer legal, social and economic options should these relationships not work out.
 
Furthermore, women with disabilities are not recognised as being ‘women’ enough to bear children, marry or keep the domestic fires burning. They are seldom afforded an opportunity to be educated, as it is believed that one day they will find a man who will take care of them, even though they are not marriage material. As women, they are often not in control of their own sexuality and reproductive rights. In many situations, health professionals and to an extent their family members decide if they may have children or not. According to research, women with disabilities are three times more likely to be victims of physical, sexual and emotional abuse.
 
Certain sex-related cultural beliefs and behaviour practices place women with disabilities at higher risk of HIV infection. 'Virginity Cleansing', a practice where an HIV infected person has sex with a virgin in the belief that they would be cured of the infection has led to the rape of many persons with disabilities especially mentally challenged women and babies. They become victims of this practice as it is believed they are virgins and in most instances cannot protect themselves from such attacks.
 
While you are contemplating the above, you may want to refurbish your blatant disregard for the disability sector, which is obviously borne out of ignorance and utter disrespect for it.  We are not eager to be reminded of our vulnerability, and certainly not available to be afforded the unwelcome suit of satirical ridicule.
 
Despite obtaining challenges, we do find space to laugh at ourselves through measured reflections of our solitude circumstances. However, we have no room to be romanced by insults hurled our way without exculpation in the name of satire: the proverbial tale of two poles does not meet with our conscious and considered approval.
An opportunity is thus presented to you to reflect. Seriously reflect on: Why Should Satire Romance the Disability Sector.
 
- Sipho Edwin Rihlamvu (Mobile: 079 045 1630, Email: simphiwecomms@hotmail.com) is Managing Director at Simphiwe Communications.

Have you ever had to sit in front of your Board Members and justify the use of Social Media Marketing in your Organisation's overall Marketing Strategy?

I know how difficult it can be to quantify the time and dedication Social Media requires, be that in the form of attending Workshops to gain more skills, or the time spent online engaging with various Audiences. I usually use the below example to help explain why Social Media is one of the best tools to use as a Nonprofit:

"Imagine if I asked you to book (and pay for) a floor space at a busy shopping centre during Christmas Time with a table and sign set up to give out samples/phamplets of your product/organisation. Would you expect the foot traffic to see your product? Would you expect people to take the free samples? Would you expect them to give you feedback on the sample like, 'Yes I  love it;  No I cannot afford this right now etc.' Of course you would because you have paid for that floor space during peak traffic and you have given an offer most people cannot refuse. Now, amplify the above scenario exponentially. THAT is what Social Media Marketing is."

Other reasons include: 

  • It's free - the platforms are free to sign up to and use. That means that EVERYBODY uses them because who doesn't love a free service, right? What is NOT free however is the content that needs to be strategically posted within the platform from a marketing point of view. This is where a Social Media Agency or Consultant steps in.
  • It's user friendly
  • It allows you to further understand your audience
  • It helps you keep a competitive edge
  • It increases and helps maintains your customer service levels
  • It allows you to showcase your achievements
  • It's interactive by allowing you to gain real time feedback on your products / services
  • It allows you to be unique
  • It allows you to connect with a Global Market

Lastly, imagine hundreds, if not thousands, of people following YOUR Organisation Page, engaging with YOUR Brand and giving feedback on YOUR topics. Is that not the ideal place for all Nonprofit Organisations to be?

For more information on how I can help your Organisation achieve success on Social Media, please contact me on sam@phambano.org.za or visit our Technology Development Centre: www.phambano.org.za

Children are the future of our society and those less fortunate deserve the same opportunities as others. This is the same philosophy on which the non-profit organization Salaam Baalak Trust works. Counted as one of the most prestigious NGOs in India, the Salaam Baalak Trust is working towards restoring the dignity of children born on the streets and improving their lives by providing food, security, health and education.

Salaam Baalak Trust was established twenty-eight years ago in December, 1988 with donations from the movie Salaam Bombay. The trust now protects children from the ruthless underbelly of Delhi and provides them vocational training to help them live a meaningful life.  Without any division on the basis of caste, religion or gender, these are the areas in which the trust is making giant strides to alleviate children from poverty in the streets.

Children Homes

A life on the streets can have a major emotional impact on a child and therefore the Salaam Baalak Trust ensures rehabilitation and restoration of children as soon as they separate from their families. This is done through their Contact Point and Community Contact Point programs. This, however, is not possible in all the cases and therefore the children are encouraged to join a full-care residential centre after registering through the Child Welfare Committee.

The complete lifecycle of the Children Homes programme is as follows:

  • Salaam Baalak Trust appoints contact points throughout the city, especially at railway stations and crowded places in order to identify children who have just arrived in the city and might be vulnerable to bad elements in the society;
  • The second step in the programme is to counsel and help the street children reunite with their families;
  • In case it’s not feasible to trace back their families, the trust goes ahead and introduces the children to older children to help develop a sense of common identity and empathy between them. This helps in making sure that the children frequently visit the contact points;
  • Other facilities such as nutrition, clothing, education (formal or open schools) and medical support is provided to the children;
  • Introduction to drug addiction programmes is done in case the child is hooked on to bad substances;
  • Recreational facilities are provided such as sports (indoors and outdoors), music, art and craft;
  • Child rights awareness programmes are run and efforts are made to help the children reunite with their families;

Apart from 19 contact points and 6 full care residential centers, the Salaam Baalak Trust also runs Akanksha, a children outreach programme in slums.

Health Protection

Basic health facilities are a necessity that every human being deserves. The children, prone to severe infections and diseases, need basic healthcare in order to grow. The trust, therefore, provides individual health cards for the children. Medical check-ups are also done at regular intervals. To compliment basic healthcare, hot-cooked meals are provided at residential centers and contact points. Hepatitis-B and tetanus vaccinations are done at regular intervals for children in need.

A special emphasis is also given to Mental Health, especially because the children living in the streets go through a lot of stress and anxiety.  Under this programme, started in 2003, children can approach their counselor without the fear of being judged and can vent out their anger and insecurities within a safe space.

Education and Social Inclusion

With a special focus on need based solutions, the Salaam Baalak Trust places education as a high priority area for the underprivileged children. Many schemes of education, both formal and informal are employed by the trust to help the children become informed and responsible citizens of our society. Here are some of the programmes offered by the trust:

  • National Institute of Open Schooling
  • Formal Education
  • Non-Formal Education
  • Bridge Education/Course

Recreation

The Salaam Baalak Trust believes in curing the malice in the life of street children with the help of performing arts. It is not only a medium to express themselves but also an opportunity to prove that they are good at something in life. Numerous case studies have proven that not only do the creative arts help instill a sense of purpose for many of these children but also helps them in making friends and carving a path for, and of their own.

The recreation activities therefore include street plays, annual dance, pottery and theatre. With such avenues and opportunities for street children, the Salaam Baalak Trust continues to do pioneering work in this area.

To donate and express your support for the wonderful work being done by the Salaam Baalak Trust, Visit here. http://www.salaambaalaktrust.com

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