2 South Africans Making an Impact at Home
Florence Ngobeni-Allen promotes HIV/AIDS education; Amon Maseko encourages job-skills training.
"I could run any program on HIV and AIDS," she said. "But I've realized that mental health is not strengthened to a point where every person knows how to sustain themselves psychologically. HIV is thought of as a physical disease, but it's also a mental disease. It's very hard to think about the future with HIV."
Amon Maseko is another South African philanthropist who developed his charitable project as a result of his own experiences. Maseko, 31, was recently honored with an Inyathelo Philanthropy Award for his work at the Upbeat Youth Centre, a project that provides job training for young people.
Maseko, who runs a steel-exporting business in Johannesburg, said that he started the initiative in 2010 after he realized that many of his employees lacked basic office skills, such as familiarity with computers.
South Africa also has sky-high unemployment rates -- nearly 25 percent -- and skills are in short supply. Maseko gathered 180,000 rand -- then worth about $25,000 -- and started the center in his home province of Mpumalanga. Since its inception, the center has trained about 200 young people, 80 of whom have since landed jobs.
He said that he felt it was his duty to continue his family's track record of giving back. "My grandparents [and] my dad were involved in the struggle in apartheid times," he told The Root. "They chose to fight for the struggle when they could have just stayed home. As much as the struggle is over, we have another struggle."
Maseko hopes to expand the project but said he expects the process to be slow. "[If you're] a black guy, the bank won't give you anything," he said, referring to the challenges that he has faced getting loans. "You have to work with what you have."
He said that locals should do more to help their communities in an organized way, because community members often know what their neighbors need better than international donors do. "If you're a doctor trying to diagnose something, you hear from the patient first," Maseko said. "They say, 'Here's the problem.' Then you create solutions."
Anita Powell is a Johannesburg-based journalist who has covered Africa for five years and previously covered Iraq and Afghanistan. Follow her on Twitter.