A quiet revolution is underway among the South African community abroad with the launch of the Khulisa Global Mentorship Movement (KGMM) in the United Kingdom and beyond.
Following a two-week visit last month by Khulisa founder Lesleyann van Selm and mentorship director Salome Fenyane, the South African diaspora is abuzz with a practical and impactful formula to make a difference in South Africa from afar by sharing their skills, experience and networks with their less privileged counterparts.
More than 50 mentors were signed up during the visit and at least five London-based companies are involved in negotiations to endorse the mentorship program as part of their corporate social responsibility offering.
The project has also been enthusiastically received by digital platforms such as SA People which has some 150 000 signed-up online viewers, the Pharside which has some 120 000 and The South African
online newspaper which has almost 100 000 and Brand South Africa's Global South African Network which has several thousand signed by members. All will soon have access to details of the Khulisa mentorship program and all three sites are discussing a partnership with the Khulisa mentorship program to take their respective projects forward.
"We are delighted with the response from the South African community in the UK," said Van Selm who is due to return to London in September for a second round of launch events. "The Khulisa mentorship movement is based on international research into distance learning which highlights the huge contribution that mentoring can make to the quality of education and training."
The South African High Commission in London and Brand South Africa have given the program their full backing to the project and the South African Chamber of Commerce in the UK and its corporate members have expressed great interest in the project.
"I believe in paying forward – taking people from disadvantaged communities and giving them an opportunity," said Brand South Africa UK Country Head Pumela Salela at a lunch event at South Africa House in June. "The seeds planted will yield a harvest in one form or another." While education reform in South Africa moves slowly and will take years or decades to make itself felt, online mentorship of formerly disadvantaged and vulnerable South Africans can make a huge difference to individual lives - transforming marginalised citizens into economically empowered and proud South Africans.
In the past few weeks, Khulisa Social Solutions, a driving force in social change and community building for two decades in South Africa, has been winning the support of South African-originated companies and South Africans living and working abroad for its home-grown mentorship program. The online mentors are engaged through a tried-and- trusted process which involves training of both mentors and mentees, matching the mentors with mentees and backed up by established support and monitoring procedures developed by Khulisa's research team.
The online mentors living abroad will add significantly to the existing pool of mentors inside the country and provide that much needed "ear and helping hand" which has been shown to make a dramatic difference to the lives of those keen to break out of poverty or disability and transform adversity into triumph.
"For as little as two or three hours a month mentors can make a huge difference to the lives of young South Africans wanting to learn but lacking the confidence or resources," said Salome Fenyane, director of the mentorship program and author of several books including The Persistent Black Girl in which she relates her own inspiring story of transforming adversity into triumph.
"I feel privileged to be able to help create the kind of mentors that I wish I had had when I was younger and who would have made such a big difference to my life," she said.
Khulisa Social Solutions was founded nearly 20 years ago as a crime rehabilitation not-for- profit company (NPO) and later moved into social interventions and creating inclusive communities. It reaches some 500 000 vulnerable and marginalised people living in more than 350 communities in South Africa annually.
More recently it has set up a mentoring initiative in South Africa which is now seeking to expand its pool of mentors and is engaging companies and individuals to recruit and sponsor mentors for
ONLINE mentoring of a wide range of mentees in South Africa. The prime sectors for recruitment are the expat SA community and SA and SA-originated businesses in the UK as well as trusts and family foundations and international development foundations as partners.
"I think it is a great idea and an excellent way for South Africans living abroad to give back in a constructive and rewarding way which promotes two-way communication and growth," said Derek Lubner, a prominent South African business leader in the UK.
Khulisa UK is a UK-registered charity which grew out of the South African experience with crime rehabilitation resulting in 2008 in the Silence the Violence program which is widely used in British
prisons and communities. "It is a prime example of north-south collaboration in reverse," said Dominique Airey, the new CEO of Khulisa UK who has extensive experience in international aid, mentoring and small business development.
Khulisa UK's Silence the Violence program is a powerful example of a reverse development model between north and south where innovation developed in the south is transferred to the north to
solve problems and then gets further developed in the north with added value being transferred back to the south in a virtuous circle of sustainable development. Khulisa, with a foot in both the south and the north, is at the cutting edge of a new trend in international development with huge potential to develop on the future.
"I think the potential for this south-to- north transfer is an exciting future trend," said Airey. Outgoing Khulisa CEO Simon Fulford, who was instrumental in establishing and developing Khulisa UK, said that the Silence the Violence program is a pioneering beacon of reverse collaboration which will open an era of partnerships based on equality and will show the way to integrated global development and greater equality between north and south. "Khulisa's work in the UK will prove to be a landmark in the relationship between north and south," he said.
During the past two years, Khulisa Social Solutions has set up a mentoring initiative in South Africa which is now seeking to expand its pool of mentors and is engaging companies and individuals to recruit and sponsor mentors for global ONLINE mentoring which will benefit a wide range of mentees in South Africa.
"Imagine if we could take your skills, your experience and your capacity and transfer them to an individual, a group or an entire community...imagine what South Africa would look like," said David Patient, Khulisa's lead mentor and the world's longest surviving HIV/Aids patient. "I regard Khulisa as social engineers and change agents," Patient said. "One of the great things about being a mentor is an incredible learning curve for me as well."
The program has been supported by Khulisa's two decades of experience in crime rehabilitation and social interventions and will be further refined through constant feedback and monitoring by Khulisa's state-of- the-art information monitoring system.
John Battersby is the UK Country Manager of KGMM. He is the former UK Country Manager of Brand South Africa, international journalist and co-author of two books on the late Nelson Mandela. He is the chair of trustees of the Canon Collins Educational and Legal Assistance Trust and a director of the South African Chamber of Commerce in the UK.