Robert, please tell me a bit about yourself?
I come from an IT background, I was involved in the PC and Internet revolution in various companies I owned from 1981 to 2007. Part of that process was making sure the company was involved in what we now call CSR. My wife and I were involved mostly in HIV/Aids orphanages, which then progressed into helping the creation of the computer technology when the Nelson Mandela Foundation was formed and my first encounter with Mr Mandela. From there it progressed until I gave up corporate life in favour of running a charity based organisation full-time to support the social needs of children in South Africa under the 46664 banner.
The Mandela bangle initiative is your brainchild please tell me a bit about what you are doing?
The program is designed around 3 basic principals:
1. Job creation, skills development via the making and crafting of South African products in less privileged areas that appeal to a global audience.
2. Retailing of the items to generate funds that are used to focus on childhood literacy and education, Our current project is the building of Mandela Day school libraries from old shipping containers. A fantastic project started in 2011 which involved Soul Buddyz, Rotary International and the Department of Education to ensure success.
3. Turning every person who invests in the Brand and products into a Mandela Charity Champion as they show off their unique item. The bangle not only allows you to register but it also allows you to publish your Mandela Message to the world and then track the funds the bangle generated via the serial number, a world first for a charity.
Where did this idea come from?
It is relatively simple actually, I am an entrepreneur and grew frustrated in a process of begging for money for most of the year to only have it disappear in each project and then start the cycle all over again. That’s when I built the idea of a sustainable business model to fund the charity projects on a more structured business approach. The second was the fact that people always asked me two questions when we ask for donations. The first being “What’s in it for me?” and the second “How do I know where the money goes?” So we knew that there had to be a product but we wanted it uniquely South African and we wanted it to send a message every day. The wrist was an obvious choice, I designed a unisex bangle that would carry the iconic imagery of Mr Mandela. The inspiration of the design was from a moment when I realized that a bangle shaped like a C was an embrace but not a handcuff. An embrace from Mr Mandela to the individual and an embrace from the wearer to the ideals and ethos of Mr Mandela’s essence. It also talks about the fact that unity by everyone has the ability to change the world. Just like 100 bangles changes a kids life, 1000 bangle can change a class of kids and 10 000 bangles can change an entire school of 1000 kids.
Kids and literacy in South Africa…
This is the most challenging part of what we have to focus on, a few facts; the average literacy in primary school is 34%. kids in rural areas leave school after grade 7 as they need literacy to learn further and its often easier at that stage to simply stay home and look after the livestock and do home chores which are part of everyday survival.
Research shows that for every child we get to learn to read we keep them at school at least 2 years longer which impacts household income by about 200%. While we see that for every girl we get to learn to read we see them finish matric and improve household income by approximately 1980% and their children always go to school.
Monitoring has also proved helpful in our libraries as we see every school that has our libraries with a reading program improve from the average 34% to just above 54% in 3 years. No amount of charity will help every child but we have a responsibility to at least give each child access to the opportunity to ensure they have the tools to help themselves.
“Its more than a fashion statement. Is it an affirmation of responsibility” Let us talk about the personal responsibility we all have towards our country and our people?
Mr Mandela said that “Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great, Now is the time for us to be that generation,” and facilitate the change for our children so they can live in a world we can all be proud of. It is more than a simple task of education and the government’s responsibility, it takes a teacher to help a child to learn to read but it takes a whole village to raise a human being of value to society. We can’t simply turn our backs, we need to be part of the solution so that we can all benefit as a society because if we don’t we will most certainly all have to deal with the eventual fallout that will result.
How does one get involved?
There are 3 distinct ways to be involved. The first is to buy the bangle and wear it with pride. Not only does it look good but it does good and feels good as well. Retailers around the world sell the bangle and you can check your local shop details on the website or call our call centre on 011 781 2635 to order directly.
The second is via our Corporate CSR program where we can accept donations to boost funding a portion of, or a whole library by the company. We issue Code 700 socio-economic grant certificates that not only give the company an expense deduction for tax but also give BBBEE points.
The third way is to become a registered Mandela Charity Champion and take on an activity to help generate donations. It can be the 94.7 bike race, an attempt on Everest or your own bucket list. To do this you register on our platform, create your project and then start raising funds for your own library.
What does the future hold?
The bangle program enjoys support now from South Africa, Norway, Denmark, Holland, Germany, Tanzania, Kenya, Botswana and now we are working on the UK and USA markets. It will take everyone to participate but if we can sell 2,5 million bangles in 10 years we will create 4000 new jobs and raise enough money to impact 80% of all the primary school going children in South Africa, hanging the face of illiteracy permanently.