I can see now that the school is the children’s home. In my mind, Vusumzi is like a dream. When I look at the way that school was before, it was hostile. We thank God who brought you to Nomathamsanqa, Addo.
— A Nomathamsanqa Parent

Universal Promise views education as the single greatest means to empowerment. Our efforts in South Africa began as a response to decrepit classroom conditions, and since our 2011 founding, our infrastructure projects have surpassed the South African residents’ wildest dreams. The Universal Promise | Vusumzi Primary School Academic Centre, the renovation of scores of classrooms in two schools, the school playground and netball court, the security fencing, and much more are evidence of that. Our projects, though, have expanded well beyond building projects to teacher-training, student leadership workshops, twenty-first century technology, healthcare education, clean water, and financial empowerment through career training. Our goal is to provide students of all ages with opportunities to think, challenge, express themselves, connect with the world around them, and ensure equal access.

We have a straightforward, three-step approach.

We rely on local input. This foundational philosophy allows us to build and sustain trust. Stakeholders in South Africa set the agenda, because they know best. We examine their priorities in order and fund them in order. Residents know we are in it for the long haul - until their independence is unequivocal and sustainable. Stripped opportunities take time to restore, and the apartheid shadow gives the Xhosa of Nomathamsanqa good reason to doubt; but they now fully appreciate that “promise” is part of our name in word and in deed.

We do our research. We consider other nonprofits’ successes and struggles, and we examine reports, documentaries, and statistics to guide our actions. We support the education of all to promote freedom rather than perpetual hand-outs to the masses to ensure paralysis. We support school-based programs to serve thousands rather than ill-fated structures (such as orphanages for children who actually have guardians) to serve few. We embrace a steadfast mission with a broad impact rather than an ever-changing mission with an unclear destination. We respect the local articulation of needs rather than the foreign imposition of will.

We pride ourselves on transparency and help donors trace where their money goes. Contributors know that this donation paid for the purification elements of our clean water system and that donation purchased Simthandile his first new pair of school shoes. We are vigilant about protecting donor generosity, so we research diligently to find the best prices, ask for discounts on purchases, and incur next to nothing in overhead costs. We engage locals whose skills are of the highest quality and ask them to welcome others who would benefit from the training.