The winners of the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s “Inspiring Impact Challenge”, an annual competition that enables and showcases social entrepreneurship initiatives of their students, staff, and alumni, were those who stepped out to help the less fortunate.
Nombuso Khumalo, 26, was named winner in the alumni section, through the efforts of her non profit organisation, Mina Thina Children’s Foundation, which puts shoes on the feet of children from rural communities who were unable to attend school.
Instead of furthering her career with her MBChB degree (bachelor of medicine and surgery) from the UKZN, Khumalo opted for social entrepreneurship.
Her radical stance was inspired from growing up in an impoverished eShowe community.
“I encountered a group of children walking barefoot who told me they didn't have shoes. That conversation stuck in my mind for a decade and I promised myself to do something about it. That's why I went into charity work immediately. I have never touched medicine at all.”
Khumalo said the naming of their flagship programme “Click my Shoes” was inspired by the classic fantasy movie, Wizard of Oz, where Dorothy, a lead character, clicked her heels whenever she needed a change of circumstances.
Apart from the donations and corporate backing, Khumalo said she and her team had a children’s book published and sold, and the proceeds went towards sustaining the initiative.
Another initiative is the small scale farming project they run in Mandeni, where beans, potatoes, tomatoes and onions are produced and used to provide daily nutrition for children, mainly in northern KZN.
“We employ the parents and guardians of the children we assist to work on the farm, thereby making our beneficiaries a part of the solution, which also engenders loyalty.
“The produce is sold, everyone wins because parents and guardians receive income, gain skills and the kids get proper nutrition.”
Khumalo said they also monitor the academic progress of children on the programme.
She said the competition’s adjudicators were wowed by the sustainable and impactful elements of her projects
“This award indicates there is a problem and we are working on a solution.”
Khumalo said the competition has motivated her to take her projects nationally, and she is working with the United Nations and Mercedez Benz beVisioneers mission to further her vision.
Sabelo Mkhize won the undergraduate category for work done with his organisation, “Dear Youth of SA”, that aimed to assist unemployed youth of uMlazi, especially matriculants.
“It is a dynamic programme we designed to nurture their entrepreneurial and leadership skills to alleviate unemployment.”
Mkhize, 20, singled out two of the empowerment programmes they ran.
“One of them was a programme to break entrepreneurship barriers. We partnered with the eThekwini municipality and focused on aspects like how to start businesses.
“The other was a campaign for uMlazi matriculants, where we partnered with FNB and they provided a representative who taught about finance matters. We also provided attendees with entrepreneurship mentorship and conducted a mental wellness programme to help them overcome such challenges.”
Growing up in uMlazi, Mkhize is acquainted with the issues the youth faced, and planned to make a countrywide difference someday. Due to limited resources, the focus is local.
Mkhize is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in social sciences and is also a part-time student at two other institutes, studying various aspects of business.
“The business studies are for my self development because I already have a marketing company. Through this company I develop software, mobile apps, websites and provide digital services to help youngsters build their businesses,” he said.
He said the award meant the work done was impacting youth.
Kwazini Zulu is managing director of Kulisha Consulting, the company that formulated the concept and runs the competition as the UKZN’s implementing partner.
Zulu said the three-year-old competition complemented UKZN’s efforts of not only being a leading learning and research institute on the continent but also invested in the holistic development of society.
He said the ideals of the competition were to move beyond theory and textbook knowledge, and tackle real life issues in a practical way.
“Instead of waiting for a messiah to show up and rescue us, people are taking ownership of challenges and social ills facing their societies,” said Zulu.
The Independent on Saturday