Ubuntu is a uniquely African concept that exists in communities all over the continent in various forms. The word ‘’Ubuntu’’ itself, however, has South African roots in Nguni languages such as Xhosa and Zulu, and means ‘’humanity’’. To South Africans, the philosophy of Ubuntu is particularly special as it was endorsed and promoted by the late leader of our country, Nelson Mandela, during his presidency. In the book, Mandela’s Way: Fifteen Lessons on Life, Love, and Courage, Mandela defined Ubuntu as, “the profound sense that we are human only through the humanity of others; that if we are to accomplish anything in this world, it will in equal measure be due to the work and achievements of others”.
This definition, however, cannot nearly encapsulate all the significance and power that this word holds. There is a tendency to trivialise the philosophy of Ubuntu to simply refer to being generous to our neighbours, when in actuality, it is the very foundation of any successful society. It is our values that shape us into authentic human beings and our inherent desire to be a part of a larger and more significant relational, communal, societal, environmental, and spiritual world. Another renowned South African politician, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, described Ubuntu as meaning “My humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up, in what is yours.”
We practice Ubuntu nearly every day of our lives in ways that we may not know. When we show respect to elders, when we help our community, a neighbour, or a friend, or when we place the needs of others above our own in an act of selflessness, we are undeniably carrying out the spirit of Ubuntu.
South Africa sees a change of seasons during the month of September, as we transition from winter to spring. On the 24th of September, in the sunny weather, South Africans all over the country beam brightly as they celebrate National Heritage Day with friends, family, and delicious food. This year, instead of the usual braai, Relocation Africa decided to celebrate National Heritage Day by commemorating the concept that is deeply embedded in our heritage and culture; the philosophy of Ubuntu.
We took the opportunity to coordinate a clothing drive for an organisation that we would like to give recognition to. Sisters Incorporated is based in the same community as our head office, and for this reason, we reached out to other members of the community for help, thereby making the clothing drive a communal effort instead of a mere company project. We handed out flyers, spoke to neighbouring businesses, and encouraged residents to get involved in the effort. Words cannot describe the joyous feeling of hearing the doorbell ring and seeing the kind person on the other side of the gate standing with their donations in hand, or the warm feeling of recognising the good that exists in the world.
Love is not lost, generosity is not lost, humility and kindness are not lost. It lives here in Africa.
Eventually, the clothing drive evolved as we saw people bring in all kinds of gently used items of value. The staff in our head office began bringing their donations in slowly but surely, and members outside of our company overwhelmed us with the number of boxes of clothes, crockery, cutlery, crafts, toys, trinkets, ornaments, and so much more, that were being brought in. It was heartwarming to see the energy that everyone was investing into doing something for a greater cause.
The day of the drop-off finally arrived and the women in the office found themselves sharing the duties of packing the goods into boxes. Good actions do good things for the soul, and this is evident in the way that the ladies in the office were passing around ceramic cups and glass trinkets to be wrapped securely in newspaper and packed neatly into boxes, folding clothes into piles, and pointing out the fun crafts that would all be added to the donations for Sisters Incorporated.
The scene encapsulated unity, helpfulness, and companionship. These are all the principles that Sisters Incorporated represent and instill in the women that they provide care for.
About Sisters Incorporated
Sisters Incorporated offers aid to abused women and children irrespective of their race, ethnicity, age, or class. They work hard at providing trauma counselling for these women and upskilling them in aim to transform them into active members of the public. Part of their mission statement is ‘’We provide care – free of judgement, criticism, and bias – and aspire to empower those who pass through our doors, to become better equipped for their role in society’’.
Upon arriving at their gates, the ladies at Sisters Incorporated greeted us with warm embraces and welcomed us inside their office. We sat and chatted for so long that we lost track of time, with topics of conversation ranging from details of the amazing work that they do at bettering the wellbeing of the women in the community, to how our values align with one another’s, and the different ways in which any individual can help out.
We encourage our readers to visit Sisters Incorporated’s website, and support them in any way possible. Their staff is eager to arrange a meeting with any potential donors, educate and inform you on what they do, or even embrace you and offer assistance if you ever find yourself needing help.
They offer holistic care, meaning that their objective is to help the individual heal in every way that they may need healing. This means that they have an in-house social worker to help the women and children overcome the trauma and abuse of their past. With a staff of over fourteen members, and an equally sized group of volunteers, their personnel include two house mothers who rotate shifts in order to have someone on duty 24/7, in the event that any woman may need immediate assistance. They also employ a cook who prepares warm meals for the ladies and their children every day, three times a day. More importantly, they have an amazing workforce that is dedicated to teaching the ladies practical skills that they can make use of in future as a means to generate an income for themselves, such as sowing, beading, and crafts.
Sisters Incorporated would not be able to do the extraordinary work that they do alone. Each person plays a vital role in the success of Sisters Incorporated and their ability to provide aid to those in need. Every member of their staff, every volunteer, every woman that walks through the gates seeking assistance, and every donor, contributes to the mechanism that is Sisters Incorporated. They are a true embodiment of the philosophy of Ubuntu. In their story, and even in efforts shown by the community and beyond, lies every factor that Nelson Mandela associated with the meaning of Ubuntu: Helpfulness, sharing, respect, care, trust, and unselfishness.
According to the South African philosophy, a person who behaves in these ways has Ubuntu, and therefore they are a full person.
Ubuntu is the natural propensity of the human to establish connections and build upon them. In South Africa, it is symbolic of our ability to unite with one another in striving towards a common good, and it encourages us toward selfless acts. Ubuntu is the word for humanity in the native Nguni languages of South Africa, and humanity is a quality we owe to each other.
Learn more about the inspirational work being done at Sisters Incorporated or contact their unsung heroes to make a donation by visiting their website.