Dear Members of the Canadian Board,
In my final meeting with Ruth and Cecil, Cecil asked that I write a 1-pager as an introduction to who I am, with some background and my sense of EwB. I thought to divide this into three components, namely:
My professional background; a little bit about who I am and what drives me and my sense of EwB. I have intentionally not written this as a formal document. My resume is available if needed.
My career started off in 1988 in the field of nature conservation – I dreamt of been a game ranger since the age of about 4. As luck would have it my first job was as an environmental educator. This leading trails for children through an incredible nature reserve known as Umgeni Valley.
In the early nineties, whilst still working in environmental education, I found myself increasingly working with children on issues that spoke to forms of trauma and abuse. This led to meeting people who worked in the field of child and youth care, a decision to return to varsity and qualification in child and youth development.
In 1995, I was working to build a dream to take adjudicated youth into the mountains so as to work with them through their trauma etc. At this time I met Marian Goodman of Educo Africa. She courageously allowed me to pilot a programme known as Siyavuka (we are awakening). This programme worked with the country’s most vulnerable youth in the pristine wilderness areas of our land. The programme was supported by our new democratic government, specifically a task team created to identify alternative approaches to working with vulnerable youth.
In 2000, I left Educo Africa, now a father; I was determined to be present for my own children. As such 10-21 day field trips needed to become a thing of the past.
Between 2000 and 2010 I ran several child and youth development agencies.
In 2010, I met with an Educo Africa manager; Educo was facing closure due to financial constraints. I decided to jump in and implement a turn-around strategy. This ran until 2014 when I left for a few reasons. Namely:
- The Board and I wanted to implement a transformation of leadership strategy. At both board level and executive we wanted black leadership
- I was pretty burnt from 4 ½ years of intensive fundraising
- I wanted to launch a social business focusing on a business platform allowing youth to generate a livelihood through micro business endeavours.
From 2014 to current I am running my social business AspireYouth; and funding the start-up aspect of this through consultancy work in organisational development and some facilitation.
(Note, the trouble with nearing 50, is that it takes longer to write about your professional experiences!)
Moving on… the bit about me.
I am 48 years old, 2 incredible and joy-bringing children. Emma (16) and James (12). With enormous sadness I am living through a divorce as I write this.
In short, I love life; I am fascinated by this life – the complexity, the ecology of connection, the potential to grow. I practice Tai Chi, follow a very broad Buddhist path of mindfulness and compassion practice; spend as much time outdoor, have photography as a hobby; play mediocre guitar and sing in a manner that makes Bob Dylan sound operatic.
What drives me is witnessing and supporting people waking up and living into the potential. By people I am most drawn to working with youth who are grossly neglected by our social construct. In other words – kids trapped in poverty.
I have worked with EwB over a few years, initially in Educo, some support to Vimbai and more recently helping you guys get your South African NPO certificate.
My last paragraph above, easily clarifies why I am drawn to your organisation. Education opens doors to opportunities. And trust me in South Africa we are so ruining the future of our children by a sub-standard education system and lack-lustre teachers. (unless of course you have money)
Where I resonate is with the narrative of EwB. It works because a small group of highly dedicated people care enough to show up and make a difference. I love the fact that you are not funded by some massive USAID or similar. I have seen the souls of organisations destroyed through chasing big money and reducing the ultimate value of care for each child.
In my knowing of Ruth and Cecil, I appreciate the constant ability to want to do better, more, increase results, challenge and step-up. This is the kind of environment where I like to work.
A fine example of this is the new initiative of Wynberg Boy’s High School volunteering. I am not sure if you understand how critical this is in South African society at the moment. The economic disparity is creating a violent discord in our society which could lead to anarchy and horrific violence. So often we here of initiative whereby township kids are transported to the suburbs – in EwB you are taking privileged kids to the township. One word – Healing!
On a personal note, so much of my life is in major change. I have launched a business attempting to do what most people say will never work; I am in the middle of losing my marriage. As I step in to support EwB – I feel firm ground under my feet. I know this environment; have worked in it for 30 odd years. I have a small corner where I experience a sense of known. I am not sure if you can understand this, but it is an invaluable gift for me at this time.
I do not want to give the impression that all is perfect in EwB. The reporting and communication lines are confusing, leading to a lack of control. EwB needs to establish itself in the South African donor community and we need to settle into clear operational plans with defined results and outcomes. None of this is particularly difficult (I hope).
To close, and apologies to Cecil, this is more than 1-page! We live in an incredible beautiful land. It is no longer the rainbow nation. A corrupt and inadequate government has cast this image aside. This calls us to work harder, be it as the ‘mama’ who runs a soup kitchen in a nearby township or the Executive Director who is coaching one of my kids. The vision of EwB is part of the healing journey of my country.
– Mark Gamble