While Hannah and I were in South Africa, we had the good fortune to meet Henny and Trees Stege, a retired couple from the Netherlands. Henny and Trees are spending their retirement creating and implementing sustainable social entrepreneurial projects designed to permanently improve the quality of life in one of the poorest townships in South Africa.
Henny and Trees partnered with local civic leaders, health care workers, and women's groups. As a result of these partnerships, hundreds of children, many of them AIDS orphans, are being provided with outstanding daily child care at Sedimosang, a day care center right in the heart of the township.
Thousands of schoolchildren are also having their vision tested and receiving affordable eyeglasses at Ke Bona, an eye clinic Henny and Trees created.
Finally, groups of senior women are preparing and sharing a nutritious meal several times a week with other seniors. Currently, these women are working in a church with no running water or electricity. They could reach many so more people with a safe, fully functioning facility.
Henny and Trees are, without a doubt, models of successful social entrepreneurs. Each of their efforts has been designed to be a self-sufficient enterprise, managed, staffed and eventually financed by the residents of Ivory Park themselves. Their latest dream is to bring each of these projects together under one roof in a community center located right in the middle of the township. The community center will house the eye care clinic, the day care center, the soup kitchen, a library and after school study/tutoring center.
I believe that we can help with this project by tapping into our personal connections and the network of schools, student organizations and student leaders throughout the United States. By challenging them to refocus their skills and interests I believe we can teach students how to develop their capacity to be social entrepreneurs. The exciting thing is that we have the potential to have an immediate, direct, and personal impact by mobilizing students throughout the US and working together with individuals who are changing lives for the better every single day in South Africa.