What would you change?

Nelson Mandela said that as long as poverty, injustice and gross inequality persist in our world, none of us can truly rest.

South Africans are blessed with a beautiful country, acclaimed for its wealth of resources and its resourceful, innovative people. Its citizens are good at solving problems and are, after all, the inventors of the Kreepy Krawly, the cat’s eyes on the roads of the world and, of course, one of the world’s most innovative constitutions. South Africans are energised by challenges and spend much time debating them.

Why is it then that more than 40% of the Southern African population continues to live in utter poverty? In this day and age with breathtaking advances in science, technology and industry, why does poverty remain one of the biggest scourges of our times? The good news is that there is still time to reverse the poverty cycle—to make history, to change the world forever.

This September the Southern Africa Trust will be running a change4ever campaign, which will give all South Africans a licence to meditate, to dream—and to come up with a visionary response to the question: “If you could change one thing forever, what would it be?”

By sending an SMS to 36545 responding to the question, participants will be making a valuable contribution to identifying what needs to change in their life, their community, the workplace, the country, the region and the world. This feedback will form part of a national blueprint detailing what South Africans are hoping to change and what it is that they are envisaging for a brighter future.

Each SMS will give R5 to change4ever. To give more, participants can also answer the question online and donate through a quick click at www.change4ever.org.

Changing people’s lives forever refers to sustainable change and links with the Southern Africa Trust’s aim of ending poverty forever—not dealing with its seemingly never-ending symptoms.

The trust aims to raise R1-million in the month of September through online pledges and the dedicated SMS line. The funds generated will be used to enable it to find lasting solutions to the region’s cycle of poverty and associated problems. Among those championing the cause as “ambassadors of change” are Graça Machel, Mail & Guardian editor Ferial Haffajee, fashion designer David Tlale and well-known radio personality Bob Mabena.

The trust has an impressive record of successful projects aimed at eradicating poverty. It is an independent, regional, non-profit agency that was established to strengthen the voice of the poor in determining the best ways to overcome poverty across Southern Africa—and to work with others to make it happen.

It has supported more than 130 projects since its inception in 2005, working against poverty in 15 countries mainly through the contributions of people from overseas. But it cannot depend on overseas aid alone, hence the call for South Africans to take responsibility for supporting efforts to overcome poverty in the region.

Neville Gabriel, executive director of the Southern Africa Trust, says the philosophy behind its work is to research each case individually and then bring groups together to decide, in an informed way, how best to address the challenges, digging down to the root causes to make sure these are addressed.

“Instead of just giving food handouts, for example, we support initiatives to address why there are food shortages and build agreements to fix the underlying causes. We then support increased work to change the problem forever.”

Gabriel says that what makes giving to change4ever so significant is that contributions are directed to efforts that drive permanent change at the root of the problem: the underlying causes of poverty are tackled so that they don’t recur.

“There is an emerging new generation of people who want to give to a solution rather than a problem and the change4ever campaign enables them to do just that.”

For more information on the Southern Africa Trust and its campaign visit www.change4ever.org
This article is brought to you in partnership by the Southern Africa Trust and the Mail & Guardian

What they would change
Graça Machel, campaigner for children and women’s rights:
“If I could change one thing forever it would be the way in which women are viewed and treated. Equity and equality between men and women should not be an optional extra but should be seen as a benefit to all society. It is only when both men and women develop and display their full talents that we can truly attain political, economic and social development in our region and in Africa as a whole.”

Ferial Haffajee, editor of the Mail & Guardian:
“If I could change one thing forever I would ensure that poverty is no longer the hidden story of the media, that we are not surprised by the annual statistics that show half of all South Africans are desperately poor and that the only thing growing at a cracking pace is the Gini coefficient. I would like the Millennium Development Goals to be as commonplace a set of indicators as the FTSE, the JSE-Alsi and the rand-dollar exchange rate.”

David Tlale, fashion designer:
“If I could change one thing forever I would impress a positive mindset in everyone’s life of understanding that life is a miracle—whatever comes our way there’s hope for tomorrow. So, there’s no need to give up. Keep going, keep on surviving.”

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