On 20 November we, along with the rest of the world, will be celebrating Universal Children’s Day.
The United Nations hopes to – through this day – promote global togetherness, create awareness of the problems that children face, and improve the welfare for all children.
In this interview, Dr. Jerry Gule, the chairman of The Love Trust, about what special meaning this day has for the organisation.
Especially how it, along with many of the other UN goals, aligns with their vision of improving the lives of the children in their care, and the communities they impact.
What does Universal Children’s Day on 20 November, mean to The Love Trust?
“It is actually at the very core of what The Love Trust is about: caring for children. The day is about the upliftment of children, which is at the heart of what we do: uplifting children and giving them all the opportunities so that they can be responsible citizens in their adulthood.”
How do you believe The Love Trust is working to address (UN and national) development priorities – in particular reducing poverty, inequalities, and gender inequality?
“By looking at that whole list of UN goals, we asked: ‘What is it that we can do? How can we, in a meaningful and in a sustained way, achieve this?’
At The Love Trust, we believe that by empowering one child and making a difference in their life you’re breaking the cycle of poverty. You have changed the trajectory of their life, and that of their own progeny, also. We believe that through education, you empower a child to free themselves; to fight the poverty because education is an equaliser.
So, hopefully we’ll contribute to these development priorities of the UN, by giving kids what they need: education, health, nutrition, and making a difference in their lives.”
The goals speak to long term programmes that will require dedication, cooperation, resilience, partnerships and committed funding. Why is it so important to not shy away from these (seemingly insurmountable) challenges?
“Someone remarked that if the world, and the world is us, was generous there would be no hunger. But because we want to horde, and we don’t share resources, hunger persists.
I think part of the philosophy that we have, as The Love Trust, is that we certainly ought to collaborate. We are in an ecosystem and in this ecosystem, you have many partners, just find your niche (the role that you can play), but don’t forget to learn from other people or organisations.
These are not problems that should be ignored and they’re not problems that can be solved by one party. It will take a community: we can all share our knowledge, our resources (not just money but knowledge). And slowly we have a way of dealing with the so called almost seemingly insurmountable challenge that that we face.
The fact is, we cannot ignore it, we ignore it at our## peril. You can’t have the sea of poverty and an island of means – we need to try and bridge the gap. If we put our heads together, we can overcome this as a community, as a society, as a nation and, of course, as the world. But it will take dedication.”
As a South African NPO, why is it important to align with the UN international development goals?
“I think it’s important because it helps you to learn. You can benchmark yourself and see how other people are doing and learn from them. We want to align with this because we think it’s a good standard and it’s something that corporates embrace, that hopefully our government also embraces, and therefore keeps us in line with the global aspirations.”
Why should other organisations align with the vision of the UN goals, in your opinion?
“For me, one of the reasons is benchmarking. It helps you when you can benchmark or view your own activities. And there are enough goals that you can find something that you can do, and possibly something that we are also good at.
I would certainly encourage those that have not even looked at the UN goals, that they do so and see if there’s something that they can do to make a difference. If the whole world unites against this and is serious about it, I’m sure we can make tangible gains regarding eradicating poverty and hunger.”
What is needed from for-profit organisations in the private sector to support these initiatives? What value does this offer corporate partners?
“For-profit organisations can actually do a lot: they have skills, funding, and there are people they can deploy to make a difference. Sometimes it’s just removing cumbersome bureaucratic systems and replacing them with simple systems that can help an NPO run better.
They can also second their own people for short periods so that NPOs can do what they need to do, better. When Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) took hold in South Africa, companies started to have policies around it and allowed their staff to volunteer for certain causes that they’re passionate about.
I think corporates can help the NPOs by seconding staff and, of course, where they have the means, to donate financially to assist these organisations. But don’t just donate and walk away: hold those NPOs accountable!”
What is your dream for the children of South Africa this Universal Children’s Day?
“That question gets to me, because of the abuse that takes place and the suffering that children have to endure.
For this Universal Children Day, I wish that every child in South Africa can be happy and have the support that they need from every adult.
As the saying goes, ‘It takes a village to bring up a child,’ but we don’t exercise the philosophy. Our children at a very early age are getting exposed to drugs and abuse.
My dream would be that every child in South Africa would know that they are loved; that someone cares for them; that they need to have hope – they cannot give up. I wish every adult would embrace a child who needs it because all children need support. If we can offer that love, that will be excellent.”
What advice do you have for adults of South Africa this Universal Children’s Day?
“To all men: we really need to think, and we need to plan. No child should be an accident. It should be something that we all have thought about especially the consequences of bringing this young life into the world.
It’s sometimes so disheartening to find that people don’t want to take their responsibility for the fact that they are fathers. I know that our women do a wonderful job. The stats will tell us that there are a lot of single moms who are raising kids at great suffering to themselves. Who have sacrificed themselves, but they do the job.
As men, let’s step up, let’s be responsible. And if we do that, there is a lot of things that would come back to combat the crime, because we’ve become responsible. We cannot have a nation where kids are left to their own devices. Let’s take responsibility for our children.”