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Rise above the challenge

“I believe that all of us have the skills to raise funds, especially for a great project – we just need to have the courage to ask.” – Mary-Jane Morifi, Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital Trust.

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You joined NMCHT after they passed the half way mark towards raising R1 billion. Did you have a plan on how you would take the global fundraising campaign to another level?

I joined the NMCHT with the idea to volunteer my service where they were required. The area most needing support was the fundraising to ensure that the hospital is built on time and on budget. The plan was to develop a strategy that would enable the Trust to raise the necessary funds required.

What inspired you to raise your hand and join the team?

I had been impressed by what the Trust was planning to do while I was working in the corporate environment. I believed that the hospital would be a fitting last legacy project for a great man who had given so much to help build a South Africa we can all be proud of. I felt that the least I could do was contribute my time and skills to make this project a reality. I wanted to contribute positively to South Africa and to do this in honour of a great man and to say thank you.

What were some of the challenges you went through in the early days?

There seems to be a belief that raising money for any Mandela project would be easy – I also naively thought so. The reality struck when some donors expressed fatigue at having given to Mandela projects, and others did not believe that such a small NGO could pull off a billion rand project. So we had to build a compelling story, not about Madiba’s legacy but about what this hospital would mean to the children of Southern Africa. It is when we started amplifying that message that people started paying closer attention.

You’re also involved in the interior design process Can you share any details with us?

We are now at a phase where the building will soon be ready to be turned into a family and child-centred place of healing and care. We are in the process of creating a facility that we hope will change how healthcare is delivered to children, making the family an integral part of the healing and recovery process. It will be a facility that we have no doubt every South African will be proud of – with therapeutic gardens, spaces for reflection and meditation, artwork to sooth the spirit and to entertain and engage the children and parents; a place of holistic treatment and care.

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What are some of your highlights from a fundraising point of view that you can share with us?

We are very grateful to all our major donors who have made it possible for the project to go ahead. The ones I celebrate everyday are the ordinary South Africans, including children who have responded so generously to the call to action. The children who are part of the For Kids by Kids Campaign, who are developing a strong sense of giving at such a young age – they are going to be great captains of industry and philanthropists of the future. The gogo who gives us R20 when she gets her pension and others like her – these are the people I celebrate because they have so little but are willing to give to make this project a reality.

Are there any skills from your previous jobs that you have applied to your role at NMCHT?

I believe that all of us have the skills in us to raise funds, especially for a great project – we just need to have the courage to ask. For a project with a price ticket of R1bn, we had to have a strong business case and also demonstrate our capacity and capability for strong governance and stewardship of the funds. The NMCHT provided the strong building blocks, and it is on the back on these that we were able to build a strong fundraising strategy and plan. My ability to operate at board level and my experience as a company spokesperson stood me in good stead when it came to presenting the case to large corporates and foundations.

What can people expect when NMCH opens its doors late next year?

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The public can expect to see a facility that will become an asset to the country’s healthcare provision to children. They can expect to experience healthcare provision that values and validates the parents’ active participation in the healing process of the child. They can expect to experience a facility designed and operated with the child at the centre; a facility that we all can be proud of, a facility informed by the Mandela Ethos in the way it will treat the children, the parents and the staff of the hospital.

You’re also involved in a lot of community work, please share some of the projects that you’re involved in.

I wish I had more hours in the day to do what I call Heart and Soul work. I am currently the Chairperson of Leratong Hospice, a palliative care facility in Atteridgeville, a township in Pretoria where I grew up. I am also involved as a Board member of the Black Sash, a rights organisation fighting for the rights of the most marginalised. I am a board member of Grassroots Soccer, a youth leadership project working with young people in schools, and their leadership coaches to build strong future leaders free from HIV/AIDS. I serve on several other boards and foundations including the UCT Foundation. The current project I am working on is developing a second-chance aftercare programme to give rehabilitated, youth drug addicts a second chance at a positive future.

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What does the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital mean to you?

I am a mother, and one day I hope my children will make me a grandmother and when they do, it is great to know that should those grandchildren and great grandchildren one day require the services provided at the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital, they will be accessible to them. This is about building a future full of possibilities; it is about contributing in a positive way and about being an active citizen – the hospital has provided me the opportunity to do that.

How would you encourage people to donate towards NMCHT?

Madiba worked tirelessly to contribute to South Africa becoming a democratic country. Democracy demands that all of us be active citizens. This hospital is a place where those who have been looking for a place they could make a positive contribution can do so, knowing it is not about party politics, but about the children and the future we want to build for them. Participation can be in the form of financial donations no matter how small. It can be about contributing time and skills and also about being positive ambassadors for the hospital. For those with little or no spare time, they can contribute by texting GIFT to 40301 as many times as they wish. All contributions are welcome.