Ronald McDonald House Charities will oversee the family accommodation at the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital. Named after the charity itself, this facility will provide lodging for families travelling from outside of Johannesburg and will provide compassion, hope and love to families of children being treated at the hospital. We chatted to Reggie Skhosana, Chair of Ronald McDonald House Charities South Africa about their relationship with NMCH.
Considering that the Ronald McDonald House is going to have 28 rooms, what has been the most significant challenge in putting together a project of this magnitude?
The most significant challenge in developing and building the first Ronald McDonald House in Africa was gathering the confidence and courage to tackle a project of this magnitude, especially for a Charity that is only three years old with no significant funds or expertise to fall back on. Other RMHC Chapters overseas have waited 5 to 10 years before embarking on such projects.
Why was it so important for RMHC to focus on family accommodation? What are the other areas of focus for your organisation?
Our purpose is about the well-being of children which is vital to maintaining strong family ties.
Our three core programs are:
- Ronald McDonald House, which is located close to the children’s hospital so as to accommodate the families whose children are very sick.
- Family Rooms, which are near neonatal and paediatric wards. We have two Ronald McDonald Family Rooms at Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital which caters to approximately 100 mothers daily, making them one of the busiest Family Rooms in the world.
- Ronald McDonald Care Mobile, a clinic on wheels which we will deploy in remote rural areas to cater for healthcare services like immunisation, dental, ear, eye and throat diseases.
What was the inspiration behind the interior design of the house?
We considered what would appeal to both families and to children, while incorporating a local flavour.
Before embarking on this project, we submitted a feasibility study to RMHC Global Office to prove the sustainability and management of the House. This study outlined the fundraising plans, training and employment of staff, management and administration of the House, and lists the existing and potential sponsors such as McDonald’s, Digistics and Standard Bank.
It also states the projected budget and the agreement that exists between the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital and our Chapter.
Will there be a charge for families to use the facility?
Our philosophy (and that of NMCH) is that we will endeavour to include all families, whether they are able to pay or not. The contribution to the House will therefore be very nominal, if any, and will be on a voluntary basis. This practice echoes Nelson Mandela’s vision and generosity to whom we owe the Hospital and the House.
Nelson Mandela was a man who lived his life in service of others. As chairman of RMHC South Africa, do you think corporates have a responsibility to help with public sector initiatives?
I believe that in our country – especially with a history of discrimination and injustice – it is incumbent on those who are privileged and have the means to help, to do so with vigour and enthusiasm. Through this we can achieve the non-racial and non-sexist society which Madiba dedicated his whole life to.
This is the first project of its kind for RMHC in Africa. What, about partnering with NMCH Trust, has been a highlight for you so far?
I have been surprised by how similar our values and principles are, and how symbiotic our relationship has become.
What are any future plans or goals that RMHC South Africa has – including the hospital, or independently?
We plan to roll out our three core programs i.e. Family Rooms, Houses and Care Mobiles throughout the country. We are currently considering public hospitals where there is a need for our services.
The NMCH was Mandela’s last wish for the children of Southern Africa. How does it make you feel to have been a part of that?
We are very excited to be part of Madiba’s last wish – that is, Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital, and are certain that he would be delighted at the addition of a facility to accommodate families during a difficult period.
How can the public support RMHC overall?
We have Donation Boxes in all McDonald’s restaurants. We also have a donate button on our website, as well as volunteer opportunities for our programs and fundraising events. Our website is www.rmhcsouthafrica.org.
Lastly, as a businessman, who/what inspired you to be a philanthropist? RMHC is a big organisation globally, what are your hopes for the South African branch of RMHC 5-10 years down the line?
I was once reminded by a friend that I should not allow myself to be changed by circumstances, but to always remember where I come from. I believe that if I can help to make a difference in a child’s life, I would have found my purpose in this world. I would like to see RMHC SA become a catalyst for change by ensuring that our children are protected from any abuse and neglect. Moreover, we need to remember that the children and the youth form the foundation of our future society. That remains my fervent wish.