In June 2017, rising senior Hollis Vohr volunteered with Universal Promise in South Africa. As part of the medical team, Hollis worked alongside local medical professionals and engaged in door-to-door health assessment and education. Throughout the experience, Hollis exhibited a profound degree of empathy and a desire to continue to give long after her return.
Hollis realized that desire by marrying her interest in sustainability with her passion for animals. A budding veterinarian, Hollis started to make dog collars to sell, with a full 100% of the profits to return to Universal Promise. The collar proceeds will be directed toward finishing the construction of the Universal Promise Academic Centre at Vusumzi School in South Africa.
Hollis spent hours and hours of her time and money to handcraft these beautiful collars. Will you please consider purchasing one for your canine pal? Yes, you could probably purchase a dog collar less expensively elsewhere, but you would not be educating nearly 1,000 children at the same time.
The price for these one-of-a-kind collars includes shipping, handling, and a donation to Universal Promise.
Here's to Hollis for extending her volunteerism well beyond the borders of South Africa! That is the definition of life-changing, for sure.
Newport Life Magazine recently recognized Universal Promise founder and director, Martha T. Cummings, a Top 10 Groundbreaker for her community leadership. Cummings and nine other recipients, whose interests include the arts, medicine, and race relations, were recognized in Newport earlier this year.
About the honor, Cummings said, "I'm grateful this award will bring further attention to Universal Promise and those we serve. If this inspires others to come to the philanthropic table, then the recognition will do as it is meant to do: spread awareness and action, not merely in the United States but anywhere need exists."
The Mayibuye Ndlovu Development Trust (MNDT), the organization with which Universal Promise partnered when we arrived in South Africa, is back in full force! After Roland Carolus, the long-admired director of the MNDT stepped down a few years ago, the trust took some time to select another leader, but, boy, oh, boy, was it worth the wait! New Director Charlie Josephs (left with high school students) is a treasure. He has, with great purpose and calm, led by example, proposed bold and broad ideas for the Sundays River Valley, and reignited our partnership.
What do we value most? His vision, demeanor, willingness to call out and uproot the status quo, and follow-through! When we reached out to Charlie to assist us with fitting our Uphuhliso students (some pictured left and below) with new school blazers, he took care of the details in the blink of an eye. Charlie and MNDT arranged and funded the student transport, accompanied them to the store 45 minutes away, helped the learners get fitted, took photographs, treated them for lunch, and - along the way - underscored the importance of education. What a day!
As always, we are grateful for our relationship with MNDT, Mr. Josephs, and our steadfast friend, Joseph Fletcher, MNDT executive. Alone we go fast, but together we go far. We see that truth in Charlie Josephs and the newly-branded MNDT.
Little did Linda Kristan (left) know when she walked into It's All Good, an upscale resale shop in Brunswick, Maine, that she would soon be leading a sewing workshop to direct South African women to financial freedom.
How did that happen? In the shop that day, Linda was wearing a dress that sparked an idea in shop owner Cindy Neprash, longtime supporter of Universal Promise. Why not have the dress be the next project on UP Ilizwe Empowerment's list of conquerable skills?
Before you knew it, Linda was on the move. She hauled her sewing machine, thread, tools, and expertise to Cindy's home, and UP volunteers gathered to learn. Linda built the pattern from scratch and brought the dress to fruition in front of our eyes.
Days later, the women of UP's Ilizwe Empowerment were following that pattern, cutting fabric, and using their cherished sewing machines. Ilizwe women felt the great joy that comes from creating "something out of nothing" and securing a brighter financial future.
When the complex neck pattern surpassed all our skills, who came to the rescue again? Linda! Back in the USA, Linda carried out the finishing touches, donating more of her time to make the dresses shop-ready!
What does life-changing mean? It means that one's life (one's minutes, one's thoughts, one's sacrifices) changes to effect sustainable change for others. If you need an example of that, think Linda Kristan.
This past March, Universal Promise traveled to South Africa - with medically-trained volunteers - for its second health initiative in the country's Eastern Cape. In a small neighborhood in Addo, we conducted basic physicals and testing, as well as educational seminars in the privacy of residents' homes. The door-to-door approach sheds light on the personal struggles that compound a patient's medical issues and brings a tone of respect and dignity that may be compromised in an overcrowded clinic atmosphere.
Our medical staff, and the local medical staff with whom they partner, witness the full spectrum of conditions, from one young man lying on a dirt floor in 100-degree weather with a respiratory rate of 60 breaths/minute and a heart rate of 150 beats/minute to a 38-year-old pregnant woman who nearly gave birth (see left) in her home because of a woefully delayed ambulance that took over three hours to arrive.
The challenges the residents face are extreme: life-threatening medical conditions, malnutrition, a lack of clean water (or any water), long waits in local clinics, no transport to keep them compliant with their treatment, and more. In the midst of these conditions are rays of hope: the proposal of sustainable programs, for instance, on which Universal Promise is working, such as mobile clinics and visiting nurse organizations.
Another ray of hope is the involvement of MDF Instruments.
For two years running, MDF Instruments has answered our plea by donating stethoscopes, blood pressure devices and cuffs, diagnostic pen lights, reflex hammers, and moral support. They have connected on a genuine level with our efforts and with those we serve. MDF Instruments is an organization that donates and follows up, illustrative of compassion and caring that is as important as the materials they generously provide.
So, we thank you, MDF Instruments, for your philanthropy of the wallet and the heart. We love companies with a soul, and we are grateful to you for entrusting us with your mission.
Soccer Laduma, a South African national newspaper, featured Universal Promise in its editorial column in March 2017, when Mr. Vuyani Joni, editor, wrote a stellar piece about UP and our efforts in Nomathamsanqa. Mr. Joni, himself a child of the Eastern Cape, attended the first ever Addo Soccer Development Gala on 18 March 2017, after which he wrote the following:
"This past weekend, yours truly was invited to a sports gala event in Addo, a rural township outside of Port Elizabeth, where some good samaritans are using education and sport to change people's lives. As someone who comes from a really disadvantaged background myself, as Paterson - my hometown - is just around the corner from this township, I could really relate to the anecdotes shared at this event...
"As someone who has travelled this rough road and knows all about going to school on an empty stomach, wearing shoes with holes to school and being unable to walk properly or kneel down, in case people see the holes in your shoes, I know exactly how it feels to be hopeless and wish to throw in the towel. It took people like [UP] to help me realise my dream of making something out of my life, despite a challenging background...
"... with a community like Nomathamsanqa and the role played by Universal Promise, these people will forever have a good story to tell. It is for this reason that I decided to dedicate this week's column to these selfless people who are not just about enriching themselves but changing lives through education and sport."
In another comment, Mr. Joni wrote, "You won’t believe that I first made contact with a computer, let alone a laptop, at varsity! I knew nothing about the internet and technology, so you can imagine the disadvantage I was in during classes. However, I took it upon myself to persevere and not use my poor background as an excuse. Despite everything, I managed to make something out of my life and have made a vow to help wherever I can, so that the younger generation doesn’t have to go through what I went through."
Universal Promise is so grateful for this national acknowledgement, so that we may, together, spread our mission of Education For All. Thank you, Mr. Joni, for your words of support and gratitude.
We have an idea that will honor our commitment to empowering the residents of Nomathamsanqa, South Africa, and bring warmth and comfort to those in need in the United States. Here is how it works.
Members of UP's Ilizwe Empowerment Initiative crochet Xhosa-style hats, and we pay them a wage that is well beyond what they receive for much more laborious work. Crafters may work in the Ilizwe Empowerment workshop or in the privacy of their own homes, allowing them to care for their children and take a more active role in their upbringing.
We then offer you their creations for purchase. When you buy a hat, you may donate it to a homeless shelter in your area, or you may have us donate your purchase to a homeless shelter in Rhode Island, our home state.
100% of the profits from the sale of the hats will be reinvested in the Ilizwe Empowerment Initiative.
Let's do this.
CLICK HERE to get started. Thank you!
Spread the word.
Spread the wealth.
Spread the warmth.
CLICK HERE to get'er done. Thank you!
UP is grateful to journalist Karen Bento for the time and energy she devoted to capturing the mission of Universal Promise, its origins, and its myriad accomplishments over the first five years of existence.
Ms. Bento's two-part article highlighted what motivated Southborough native and UP Director, Martha T. Cummings, to found the nonprofit organization as well as some of the elements in her Southborough upbringing that may have inspired her.
Cummings, who is a private tutor in Rhode Island, tells the story of a student who, in responding to an SAT prompt about philanthropy, was asked if charity should begin at home. The student answered, "If you're walking down the beach, and you see a child drowning, are you going to ask him where he is from before you jump in to save him?"
Cummings hopes that the articles will spread the unparalleled power of true philanthropy not only toward Universal Promise but to all organizations with an understanding of the importance and vitality of empathy.
Click here to read the second installment.
UP Founder and Director, Martha T. Cummings, describes it as a full-circle event that her hometown of Southborough, Massachusetts, was willing to do not just one but two articles on Universal Promise and its efforts in South Africa.
Cummings writes, "I am grateful to the Southborough online news for featuring this story. Many thanks to journalist Karen Bento and much gratitude for all the good I inherited from being raised in such an amazing town."
"Parenting, birthplace, education, and the resulting opportunities have a profound impact on one's ability to convert ideas to reality," Cummings said. Cummings credits so much of her devotion to education to her parents, her teachers in Massachusetts, and the college education she was fortunate to receive as a result.
Click here to read the first installment.