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I Am Because You Are: How the Spirit of Ubuntu Inspired an Unlikely Friendship and Transformed a Community

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In 1998, Jacob Lief, a 21-year-old American university student, met school teacher Malizole "Banks" Gwaxula in a township tavern in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. After bonding over beers and a shared passion for education, Gwaxula invited Lief to live with him in the township. Inspired by their fortuitous meeting—which brought together two men separated by race, nationalit In 1998, Jacob Lief, a 21-year-old American university student, met school teacher Malizole "Banks" Gwaxula in a township tavern in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. After bonding over beers and a shared passion for education, Gwaxula invited Lief to live with him in the township. Inspired by their fortuitous meeting—which brought together two men separated by race, nationality, and age-and by the spirit of ubuntu, roughly translated as "I am because you are"—the two men embarked on an unexpectedly profound journey. Their vision? To provide vulnerable children in the townships with what every child deserves-everything. Today, their organization, Ubuntu Education Fund, is upending conventional wisdom about how to break the cycle of poverty. Shunning traditional development models, Ubuntu has redefined the concept of scale, focusing on how deeply it can impact each child's life rather than how many it can reach. Ubuntu provides everything a child needs and deserves, from prenatal care for pregnant mothers to support through university-essentially, from cradle to career. Their child-centered approach reminds us that one's birthplace should not determine one's future. I Am Because You Are sets forth an unflinching portrayal of the unique rewards and challenges of the nonprofit world while offering a bold vision for a new model of development.


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In 1998, Jacob Lief, a 21-year-old American university student, met school teacher Malizole "Banks" Gwaxula in a township tavern in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. After bonding over beers and a shared passion for education, Gwaxula invited Lief to live with him in the township. Inspired by their fortuitous meeting—which brought together two men separated by race, nationalit In 1998, Jacob Lief, a 21-year-old American university student, met school teacher Malizole "Banks" Gwaxula in a township tavern in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. After bonding over beers and a shared passion for education, Gwaxula invited Lief to live with him in the township. Inspired by their fortuitous meeting—which brought together two men separated by race, nationality, and age-and by the spirit of ubuntu, roughly translated as "I am because you are"—the two men embarked on an unexpectedly profound journey. Their vision? To provide vulnerable children in the townships with what every child deserves-everything. Today, their organization, Ubuntu Education Fund, is upending conventional wisdom about how to break the cycle of poverty. Shunning traditional development models, Ubuntu has redefined the concept of scale, focusing on how deeply it can impact each child's life rather than how many it can reach. Ubuntu provides everything a child needs and deserves, from prenatal care for pregnant mothers to support through university-essentially, from cradle to career. Their child-centered approach reminds us that one's birthplace should not determine one's future. I Am Because You Are sets forth an unflinching portrayal of the unique rewards and challenges of the nonprofit world while offering a bold vision for a new model of development.

21 review for I Am Because You Are: How the Spirit of Ubuntu Inspired an Unlikely Friendship and Transformed a Community

  1. 5 out of 5

    Werner Janse van Rensburg

  2. 4 out of 5

    Abby

  3. 4 out of 5

    Maria Gibbs

  4. 4 out of 5

    Gregory Lim

  5. 4 out of 5

    Linda Tessler

  6. 4 out of 5

    Julia Hazel

    I enjoyed learning about the process through which Lief and his team developed and refined this non profit across a decade plus. I'm interested in what it looks like to listen to a community well and earn community buy-in, as well as to make leadership choices that benefit the employees and clients of an organization and further its mission. I also found it interesting to see how Lief contrasted his choices with those most prevalent in the non profit world and pushed back against typical measure I enjoyed learning about the process through which Lief and his team developed and refined this non profit across a decade plus. I'm interested in what it looks like to listen to a community well and earn community buy-in, as well as to make leadership choices that benefit the employees and clients of an organization and further its mission. I also found it interesting to see how Lief contrasted his choices with those most prevalent in the non profit world and pushed back against typical measures of quick success. Much of that resonated with me, as did the crucial decision to follow children cradle to career providing the holistic support they need to succeed. It echoes the holistic approach to public education that my school tries to espouse.

  7. 5 out of 5

    AM Mohlenhoff

  8. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

  9. 5 out of 5

    Arturo Perez Estrada

  10. 4 out of 5

    Haiko Meelis

  11. 4 out of 5

    Saundra Robinson

  12. 4 out of 5

    Michael

  13. 4 out of 5

    Tom

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Schroer

  15. 4 out of 5

    Gail

  16. 4 out of 5

    Mary Menzel

  17. 4 out of 5

    Scott Depooter

  18. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jill

  20. 5 out of 5

    Don Seiler

  21. 5 out of 5

    Liz

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