President Clinton Visits Ubuntu
August 6, 2013 was one of the most exciting days in the history of Ubuntu Education Fund—we hosted President Bill Clinton, his daughter Chelsea, and a Clinton Foundation delegation. On their tour throughout Africa, the delegation visited Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) commitment sites that focused on improving economic opportunities, empowering disenfranchised minorities, and increasing access to quality healthcare. We were obviously thrilled to have this group take the time to fly to the Ubuntu Centre in Port Elizabeth.
The entire week leading up to their visit was surreal. We had secret service teams arrive a week ahead of time to monitor security of the township, an advance group of CGI staff come three days early to ensure that we were ready for the President, and an endless amount of meetings to prepare the Centre for our guests.
When the delegation stepped out of their planes and the motorcade sped through the city, I watched our children as they, in awe of the President, whispered excitedly about their visitors. They couldn’t wait to show off their clinic, classrooms, and garden to such important guests!
When President Bill Clinton, Chelsea Clinton, and the group finally arrived, Our Co-Founder, Banks Gwaxula greeted them and gave them Ubuntu bracelets. Our executive team, Gcobani Zonke, Jana Zindell, Tarryn Mthimkhulu and I, then led them through the Centre, answering their questions about our cradle to career model and introducing them to our students and staff.
The most emotional moment, perhaps, occurred as I was walking President Bill Clinton to our new prenatal unit of our mother and child clinic, where he spotted Zethu Ngceza. The last time they had met was in 2007, when Zethu spoke at the Clinton Global Initiative semi-annual meeting on child-headed households in New York City. Then, she had had to balance her caregiving responsibilities of her younger siblings with her schoolwork. After hearing that she had graduated from the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in 2012, he beamed and said, “I am so proud of you.”
He turned to the surrounding staff and announced, “Ubuntu has come so far. We’re very proud of your work. This is an amazing organization that actually ensures its people are taken care of.” Chelsea added, "The Ubuntu model is incredible; you start early and work with children their entire lives."
The rest of the visit went by in a whirlwind—the group met with our early childhood development and after-school program teachers and scholars, our medical staff, and our organic gardening program leader. One of our impressive university scholars, Andile Mkhonto was able to get up in front of the whole group and share his moving story. We ended the event with Banks leading our entire team in a joyous song. The whole day was over before I knew it.
As Zethu, Jana and I boarded CGI’s plane to Pretoria for a conference, the significance of the day began to sink in. I felt so incredibly humbled to have our innovative model recognized by such an influential group of policymakers and, more importantly, I was touched to see how valued and empowered the experience made our children feel. It was truly an honor.