This week, my favourite Non-Profit celebrated a milestone. These Numbers Have Faces, with my good friend Justin Zoradi as CEO put the fiftieth student that they are funding through college onto Justin’s office wall. Justin’s story is an inspiration. Just one guy in his early twenties who saw something that needed fixed and did something about it. Here is a little of the story.
It seemed appropriate that it was June 16th, South African Youth Day 2006 and the thirtieth anniversary of the Soweto Uprising, when my friend Eric Kombela and I introduced my then Californian intern Justin Zoradi to Eric’s soccer star Anda Sozawe. We were in the Mugg & Bean in Cape Town’s Victorian and Alfred Waterfront and as Justin and Anda introduced themselves to each other none of us could tell it would change both of their lives.
Four years earlier I had met Eric, or Ace as he is known, through his minister at JL Zwane Church in Guguletu, Rev Dr Spiwo Xapile. As in many other parts of the world, Spiwo had been struggling to get young men to Church and into a place where they could be taught Biblical values, what a family should look like and health issues that could avoid them contracting AIDS that was ripping the community apart. So, as Ace a former professional soccer player was around the Church, they started a soccer team connected to the Church with rewards for attending Church for the players. It was a no brainer that I took my students to play Ace’s boys in 2002 and a relationship developed. Justin was heading up one of our 2006 teams that had an emphasis on playing against and building relationships with the JL Zwane soccer team.
The next few weeks would see Justin and Anda connect more and more. By the time we left South Africa, six weeks later, Justin would have come up with an idea to sponsor guys like Anda. When he left us to return to America and take up a Masters Degree in Peace Studies in Portland Oregon, Justin set up These Numbers Have Faces (TNHF), a charity that would aim to fund South Africa’s youth through College which gives them the chance to change their lives with a drip down positive effect on their families and communities.
Anda indeed became the first student to benefit from the very modern, media clever approach that TNHF took. TNHF have used the internet, quality videos and taken a rock band approach to spreading the word that includes badges, posters, stickers and t-shirts. It has caught on in Portland and Belfast, N. Ireland with very ordinary twenty-somethings seeing the impact they can make quickly and effectively without a big corporate charity behind them.
Anda became the first person in his family to attend and graduate from College. He starred on and off the field at Northlink College. TNHF are a small grassroots charity who are attempting a “love your neighbour” alternative way to live. They connect not with statistics but with faces and always develop friendships with those they raise money for. This brings respect, dignity as well as education to township youth. Not content with this TNHF have a Community Impact Model where the students they invest in become investors themselves in terms of community service, student mentoring and financial reinvestment.
TNHF is a passionate movement attempting to make its impression on poverty reduction, education equality and ultimately the empowerment of South African youth. This week Justin put the fiftieth photograph on his office wall. When he started there was only Anda’s face to inspire him. Now the wall is covered in fifty faces, no longer just numbers, but educated young people, contributing back into their communities!Justin’s story should be an inspiration to us all!