MARCH 2019


One Vusumzi Primary School teacher said, “As an educator, I can safely say they are specialists in unearthing the reading potential in learners. In talking about Nal’ibali, it dawned on me with this venture that there is light at the end of the tunnel, minds will be transformed, and passion will be instilled for reading. This is the one time I am at a loss for words to explain what this means.”

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Month-by-month in 2019

Here’s what happens when a clear vision meets generosity and frugality.

July, August, September | a sampling

  • solidified our partnership with Samkelwe Secondary School (SSS) the high school in the township we serve, and asked the administrators, educators, parents, and students for their Top Ten Lists. “What are the top ten items, in your view, that must be addressed to bring SSS up to a proper standard?” We then met with the school principal and deputy principal to consolidate and finalize the list, focusing on those items that appeared most often and focused on education

  • met with the school educators and the entire student body to share the Top Ten List, which includes anything from a security system to a computer laboratory, and from school-wide wifi to the upgrading of sports fields.

  • continued to collaborate with an interior designer and local librarians to create a reading nook in the new library (left)

  • watched as Maria Tom, the Vusumzi Primary School Library Coordinator, received some donated books to the new library (left)

  • met with a security specialist to design a security system to protect the learners and our investment as we upgrade SSS

  • met with a water specialist to survey the building to determine whence to harvest water from the rooftops - water that will then be filtered, purified, and disbursed. This specialist will also address the decade-long problem with the broken toilet system

  • met with an IT specialist from Nomathamsanqa (who is also a graduate of SSS) to present a design for the new 31-station computer laboratory; Additional designs and quotations will follow.

  • scheduled a meeting with SMTAX Tax | Accounting | Advisory to register and fund official businesses for five budding entrepreneurs, all of whom are helping to carry out the Universal Promise mission of “education for all” in Nomathamsanqa: from IT to library work to life skills facilitators who are creating a curriculum targeted for students in Nomathamsanqa. This is yet another example of hiring local community members and doing so in a way that empowers them through the formation of their own companies.

  • were thrilled to watch the first round of 500 books hit the shelves of the new Vusumzi Primary School library we funded (left collage)

  • raised funds for our Desks, Desks, Desks project by participating at the Third Annual Live Local Music & Arts Festival in Newport

  • registered for a wish list on the AmazonSmile site and welcomed the arrival of five copies of The Giver and school calculators for secondary school students

  • began the design of an after-school program for both academic and life skills, led by a team of young adults in Nomathamsanqa to benefit primary school and secondary school students in the community

  • started ticket sales for our big fundraiser in Newport on November 16, 2019: 100% of the profits will support the Desks, Desks, Desks project.

April, May, June 2019 | a sampling

  • promised to fund the bulk of the first overnight leadership workshop at Adrenalin Addo for 60 Vusumzi Primary School learners in Grade 6

  • traveled to NYC to deliver remarks at St. Hilda’s and St. Hugh’s School, which supported our Desks, Desks, Desks initiative with some epic bake sales

  • fully funded 90+ students to participate in our first-ever field-trip to Nelson Mandela University for Open Day: career training that allows students to explore their careers of interest. Then we funded a day of food and fun on the beaches of Port Elizabeth before returning home to Nomathamsanqa (left x 3).


  • supported, at the Vusumzi Primary School principal’s request, an after school computer class for VPS students

  • launched our Desks, Desks, Desks fundraising initiative to replace all the dilapidated desks and chairs at Vusumzi Primary School with space-efficient long tables and stools. Click here to give.

  • met with St. George’s School students to package and then sell the beaded wares they helped make during their March volunteerism

  • increased our total number of sponsors from 122 to 139, a 14% increase!

  • determined that while the “normal” pass rate for the local secondary school us under 50%, the pass rate for students in our Uphuhliso Program is closer to 95%

  • hand-delivered an Apple laptop to one of our university Uphuhliso students in honor of his graduation from university

  • expanded our contacts and connections with an array of schools in Sundays River Valley to enhance our ability to stay informed about Uphuhliso students enrolled in those schools

  • completed a report for the Member of the Executive Council in Education & Training to keep him fully informed of our actions and impact in the region

  • collaborated with the Vusumzi Primary School principal in bringing on an IT specialist to assist with Microsoft lessons for the students and to ensure that the computers in the lab are up and running properly

  • ensured that Ilizwe Empowerment, the crafting project in Molly Blackburn, opened up its own bank account in recognition of its official status and offered mentorship about the balance between using some funds now and setting aside others for future investment

  • purchased a slew of new books for the Vusumzi Primary School library and the accompanying materials to prepare them for the shelves

  • purchased seats for an organization that educates and guides the children of Molly Blackburn

  • purchased a cap and gown for an Uphuhliso student who graduated from University of Fort Hare. She is the first in her family to have earned a university degree, and in the difficult field of Accounting to boot!

  • continued to provide school uniforms for children in need

January, February, March 2019 | a sampling

  • hosted a first-ever Vacation Workshop Showcase during which students from Grades 7 - 11 shared what they had learned over the first few days of vacation: from powerful insights from students (left) learned from social workers to robotics pros (left) to art wizards (left) to spontaneous dancers to Nal’ibali performances to poetry readings and literary advancements (left). Then a new principal shared his gratitude for the UP partnership and his vision for an even more just, civil, and hopeful Vusumzi Primary School.

  • held the first-ever Vacation Workshop, during which Universal Promise funded parallel programs for secondary school and primary school students. Well over 100 students participated during, yes, their school vacation! We also offered a healthy lunch cooked and served by the stellar staff at Vusumzi Primary School. Primary School students chose from the Nal’ibali Reading Program, art lessons with a local art expert (left), coding classes with Emma Bartnick, an American coding instructor, and two of her students, and arts & crafts. Secondary school students first engaged in a review of Mathematics Quarter I, sessions with social workers (separated by gender), and then either art lessons with a local art expert or coding classes!

  • began to fill the new Vusumzi Primary School library with books!!!

  • taught the Diamantes method of poetry writing, a formulaic method that underscores parts of speech and takes the fear out of writing poetry.

  • provided solar powered lighting for a student without electricity

  • delivered dozens more Gettysburg College uniforms to soccer players and runners. This is not the first time Gettysburg College has given so generously to those we serve. Their giving is worthy of emulation.

  • taught robotics to students from Grade R to Grade 7, featuring Mio the Robot. The students learned how to program the robot to carry out increasingly complex patterns and routes. They LOVED it!

  • hosted the first-ever university workshops that drew over 100 guests. We were fortunate to have had the endorsement of Councillor Rooi Nodonti and the presence of Ms. Zuki Mbuli | Senior Manager: Admissions at Nelson Mandela University. The workshop opened a lot of eyes to the importance of course selection, Maths Lit vs. Pure Maths, and deadlines for application submissions and scholarship submissions. We will have a follow-up mid-year.

  • carried out our second St. George’s School volunteer trip with 15 students and three fabulous chaperones

  • developed a more formal partnership with Nal’ibali, a phenomenal organization that makes reading more interactive, multi-sensory, and accessible to readers of all abilities and interest levels

  • laid the groundwork for Nal’ibali to visit Vusumzi Primary School (left x 2) to introduce its approach and to spark a love of reading

  • hosted at Samkelwe Secondary School a first-ever mathematics seminar - led by UP Executive Director and career mathematics educator Martha T. Cummings - for principals, educators, and students to improve the matric (university/college exam) pass rate by emphasizing self-instruction, peer support, and hands-on classroom activities

  • purchased an outrageously cool keyboard, three sets of African drums, and melodica for the Vusumzi Primary School dance & music studio

  • are designing a first-ever university/college workshop for Grade 11 and 12 students (and their parents) to prepare them for the matric, the application and scholarship processes, and the deadlines. We have invited several Universal Promise university graduates who have recently conquered the process, earned degrees in Accounting, Mechanical Engineering, and Social Work, and gained employment in their fields.

  • launched a first-ever vacation program at Vusumzi Primary School to engage students in activities they would not necessarily encounter in the classroom: activities such as coding, drawing & painting with a masterful local artist, mathematics tutoring, Nal’ibali Reading Clubs, workshops with social workers, and more

  • are expanding the Vusumzi Primary School After School Program to include chorus, dance, reading clubs, academic tutoring, and girls’ and boys’ clubs with a social worker to address topics ranging from education to teenage pregnancy to drug and alcohol abuse

  • held pre-trip sessions with St. George’s students, who will be volunteering in South Africa in March. The volunteers represent a stunning array of cultural diversity and an equally stunning collection of intellectual interests and enthusiasm.

  • ordered 10 robots to introduce robotics to students of all ages at Vusumzi Primary School

  • celebrated the successful registration of Ilizwe Empowerment as a fully-functional, independent enterprise that is now ready to take the reins with regard to product design, production, marketing, budgeting, participation at fairs, and more.

  • delivered a slew of school uniforms, school shoes, and school supplies to nearly 70 students in our Uphuhliso Program. After seeing the photograph on the (left), one grateful father of another Uphuhliso student wrote, “Wow, she is so happy. The big smile says it all. Keep on doing a good job, girl, and make use of the opportunity Universal promise gave you. Big UP to the organisation that always doesn’t disappoint. May good God bless you more and more. Thank you.”

  • installed a hot water system (geyser) in the Vusumzi Primary School kitchen to ensure higher health standards

Month-by-month in 2018

October, November, December 2018 | a sampling

  • funded the purchase of new school uniform tracksuits for the remarkable trailblazing students who continue to meet the standards of the Uphuhliso Program (left x 2)

  • received a $1,000 donation from the Brunswick, ME Rotary Club as part of the amazing It’s All Good | Be You Fashion Show that included women of all ages and sizes. The entirety of the proceeds will fund our current effort: the provision of new desks and chairs for Vusumzi Primary School classrooms, as needed. Many thanks to IAG and the Rotary Club, two organizations that understand and support the need to give to those both close-to-home and far away.

  • selected another resident of Nomathamsanqa, this time a fabulous local librarian, to open and run the brand new Vusumzi Primary School library. She will oversee the purchase of books, ready the works for distribution, set up the library system, create and carry out workshops for students, educators, and parents, and build on already established reading programs. This is another first-ever in Nomathamsanqa, and we are so grateful to be the catalyst.

  • funded the infrastructure efforts and furniture for the interior of the Vusumzi Primary School Library - built-in cabinets, the librarian’s desk, work tables, comfortable sitting areas, and more

  • received an anonymous donation of $10,000 in support of our mission of education for all

  • paid for first-class transportation for Vusumzi Primary School’s Grade 7 Farewell Ceremony in Port Elizabeth, South Africa; the ceremony is the equivalent of Middle School graduation in the USA (left)

  • inducted, with the help of Vusumzi Primary School educators, 13 new students (four of whom are pictured left with their fabulous educator) into the burgeoning Uphuhliso Program, which allows for a one-on-one sponsorship of a high school student in the Eastern Cape (below left)

  • raised $55,000 at our sold-out November 3rd fundraiser at the Rotunda in Newport! We will use 100% of those funds to purchase 4,000 culturally relevant books and other resources for the new Vusumzi Primary School library we funded.

  • felt deeply, deeply honored to have been chosen by Mr. Gerald D. “Popsy” Porter as the recipient of donations - in lieu of flowers - after his passing. We are grateful to Mr. Porter, his frequent UP volunteer Robin, and his entire family for his support of Universal Promise and those we serve. Mr. Porter was a dignified, intelligent man who was driven by family and compassion above all.

  • selected 17 new students to join our Uphuhliso Program

  • were grateful recipients of a St. George’s School dress-down day, which raised over $1,000 in support of book purchases for the new library at Vusumzi Primary School

  • worked extensively on the big fundraiser on November 3rd, to be held at the Rotunda Ballroom in Newport, Rhode Island

  • funded and delivered new winter tracksuits to qualified freshmen and sophomores in our Uphuhliso Program

  • received handwritten letters from Uphuhliso students to their sponsors

  • appointed Mary Ellen Lynch as the new Uphuhliso Coordinator, Victor Sothozama as the Tutoring Coordinator in South Africa, and Robin Porter Carlo as Victor’s counterpart/liaison in the United States

July, August, September 2018

  • coordinated the delivery and set-up of the furnishings and materials for the new academic centre

  • planned for and brought to fruition science labs and arts assignments, including a project featuring the style of Italian sculptor Alberto Giacometti (left)

  • worked with each grade level and educators to inculcate respect for the new space and to practice what that means, including how to enter and use each space and how to keep it clean

  • held a coffee-tea-cake-and-cookie gathering for Vusumzi parents to introduce them to the newly furnished academic centre and to have them sit in their children's seats as they took in the amazing transformation at Vusumzi: the best moment? "I am proud of Vusumzi Primary School. I am proud my son attends Vusumzi Primary School. I do not know how to express my feelings right now. What do I say to Universal Promise to thank you for all you have done?"

  • collaborated with the educators to create a first draft of a yearlong calendar of events for students and teachers and shared the document with the School Management Team for further discussion

  • worked with Ntombizodwa Sothozoma, the computer lab instructor, to enhance her word-processing skills, Internet research, and fluency with VPS Google Sites resource for educators, and laid out a schedule for the educators to learn the same

  • met with Vusumzi Grade 7 students to explain the Uphuhliso Program and hand out applications; we have a record-breaking 43 applicants this year (some applicants pictured left)

  • funded the completion of the Vusumzi Primary School kitchen, adding two sinks, a refrigerator, a deep-freezer, handmade cabinetry, extensive pantry storage, and an array of kitchen pots, pans, and other utensils to our already renovated floors and provision of electricity

  • funded the upgrading of the Vusumzi Primary School clean water system: a new high-powered pump, improved pipes, higher-grade purification lighting, and security fencing are all in, and the water at Vusumzi is flowing better than ever (left)

  • delivered - thanks to Gettysburg College, a longtime supporter of UP’s efforts - over 150 athletic uniforms to soccer teams in Nomathamsanqa and Paterson and a wellness and fitness program in Nomathamsanqa

  • handed out five iPads to South African counterparts to enhance our communication

  • developed a job description, daily schedule, and work order process for caretaker James Dayile

  • photographed and interviewed each member of the Ilizwe crafting program to update and personalize the Women’s Empowerment page on the website

  • met with Victor Sothozama, the coordinator of afterschool tutoring (Samkelwe tutors working with Vusumzi students), evaluated the status of the nascent program, and discussed suggestions for improvement

  • distributed to/reviewed the medical pamphlet with VPS students in Grades 3 - 7 and to the local Lukhanyiso Clinic

  • visited the pensioners' club to deliver blankets, articles of clothing, and readers (left)

  • introduced a self-portrait project with the Vusumzi learners and the Ilizwe crafters, which are AMAZING, and will be auctioned off at our November 3rd fundraiser (proceeds to turn back to the community) (left)

  • received the fabulous news that one of our university students earned top honors for her performance in Taxation 3: a rigorous course at the University of Fort Hare

  • set the date for our fall fundraiser: Saturday, November 3rd, from 6 - 11 pm, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean in Newport.

  • participated in the Second Annual Newport Local Music and Arts Fair

  • approved plans for the design of and fully funded the furnishing of the new science lab, dance & music studio, and arts studio (left)

  • hired woodworker to begin construction of the handmade furnishings for the Academic Centre

  • completed a first draft of the Universal Promise Volunteer Handbook

  • happily accepted five donated iPads to enhance communication and Internet research at Vusumzi Primary School

April, May, June 2018

  • asked the Universal Promise Academic Centre designer to visit local top-notch schools in Port Elizabeth, the closest city, to review their libraries, science lab, arts studios, and dance & music studios and then to design something better

  • hired a designer to map out furnishings for the new UP Academic Centre library, science lab, arts studio, and dance & music studio

  • sought the assistance of our first university-supported graduate, local scholar Siyabulela Rabie, to translate the Universal Promise medical pamphlet from English to Xhosa

  • finished the funding for the printing of the Universal Promise medical pamphlet, which brings our primary focus - education - to the field of healthcare

  • mapped out the renovation of the Vusumzi Primary School kitchen

  • renovated the Vusumzi Primary School student and educator bathrooms by cleaning and repainting the interior, installing new bathroom stall doors, toilet paper holders, soap dispensers and state-of-the-art hand-dryers in response to health and environmental concerns

  • distributed uniforms to Vusumzi Primary School children while feeling humbled by the gratitude of countless gracious, devoted parents (left)

  • continued to raise funds to fund the translation into Xhosa of the medical pamphlet and, ultimately, its printing and distribution

January, February, March 2018

  • named the central meeting place of the new Vusumzi Primary School Universal Promise Academic Centre after Mzolisi Moses Nqontsha, affectionately called the co-founder of Universal Promise (left)

  • celebrated the handover of the new Universal Promise Academic Centre to Vusumzi Primary School: emotions ran high, standing ovations were common, and tears ran freely

  • funded and oversaw an Ilizwe business workshop with a distinguished Xhosa businesswoman from Cape Town

  • worked with Ilizwe to design new bracelets for St. George's School and to create 500 Molly's Dollies, an increasingly popular symbol of women's empowerment

  • led a volunteer trip with 15 St. George's students from Newport, Rhode Island and four chaperones

  • replenished the Vusumzi Primary School staff room with academic materials and manipulatives

  • delivered 150 athletic uniforms and warm-ups, donated by Gettysburg College (strong advocates of sports and gender equity in athletics), to soccer and netball teams in Nomathamsanqa and Paterson

  • delivered another 50 tracksuits, also donated by Gettysburg College, to a men’s soccer program in Nomathamsanqa

  • repaired the Vusumzi Primary School lawnmower and weed-whacker so the amazing caretaker, James Dayile, in his new Universal Promise-purchased uniform and shoes, could do his job in style!

  • finished a first draft of the Universal Promise medical pamphlet, written in conjunction with South African and United States medical personnel, that will be distributed throughout Nomathamsanqa and at local clinics

  • brought Internet to Vusumzi Primary School for the first time ever, thereby opening up the world to the educators and their students

  • funded new school uniforms, shoes, backpacks, and a year's-worth of school supplies for every Uphuhliso program student, who enjoyed a crazy 100% pass rate in 2017, a full 33% higher than the norm