To mark the 25th year of Africa Foundation, we have launched the Africa Foundation Robin James Award.
About the Award
The award in the name of Robin James, honours one of Africa Foundations trustees, and chair of Africa Foundation (UK), who passed away in 2016.
Robin James’ childhood interest in wildlife grew into an adult passion for conservation and the upliftment of rural communities. At Africa Foundation the legacy of Robin James began in 1992, when he provided the initial funding and vision for the organisation’s work. Thereafter Robin remained an active ambassador for Africa Foundation; his influence and inspiration, invaluable to the organisation’s continued growth. His daily dedication was unwavering and his years of service to the cause is unparalleled by any other.
The Africa Foundation Robin James Award aims to recognise people who show the same commitment to empowering people through access to education, health, economic opportunities and conservation. The award celebrates those who embody the same foresight, wisdom and sustained commitment that enabled Robin James to have an extraordinary impact on the lives of others.
More about Robin James
Robin James was born in 1945, and spent his childhood growing up in Natal. His father, Ted James, was a Director of the Natal Parks Board, and through this involvement Robin developed his love for the outdoors and his fascination with birds. After finishing school at Michaelhouse, Robin spent a year in the Navy before attending the University of Natal in Pietermaritzburg, followed by a long and successful career in financial services in South Africa, London and latterly the Isle of Man. Robin died suddenly on 17 May 2016.
The African bush was Robin’s sanctuary from the world, and it would be here where you would find him most relaxed and at peace. Robin photographed every aspect of bush life, and this love of the African bush set him on a philanthropic path 25 years ago.
In 1992, he was a part of the visionary team of investors with Mark and Tara Getty that founded Africa Foundation after the creation of the Phinda Private Game Reserve. Back then, Robin had provided the organisation’s initial seed funding and he remained instrumental in charting its course to present day, as a Trustee of the Africa Foundation in South Africa and Chairman of the Africa Foundation UK.
Below are just a few examples of the wonderful photographs Robin took:
Selection Criteria for the Award
It is in Robin James’ name that Africa Foundation has chosen to recognise people who:
Have had a significant and sustained positive impact on communities in which Africa Foundation is active.
Have demonstrated the key aspects of the Africa Foundation methodology to empower communities by: doing things with people and; always building on the capacity and local wisdom of the community, to ensure sustainable solutions.
Embody the key qualities of Robin James – humble; wise; persistent; positive; gentle; measured, with a long term outlook.
The judging panel have been selected for their experience of Africa Foundation in action, their knowledge of the communities in which Africa Foundation is active, their valued professional insights and varied perspectives from regional and international positions
A sculpture, especially created by famous South African sculptor Dylan Lewis
A cash prize
A cash prize to be donated to an Africa Foundation community project of the winner’s choice.
Meet the 2017 Award Winner:
Mrs. Nomusa Haslot Zikhali, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa
Mrs. Zikhali first became known to Africa Foundation when she applied for support in 1999. For 2 years she had been running a school, teaching 60 children under the shade of trees in Mnqobokazi. Her commitment to and love of children, combined with sustained determination and strong leadership, led to Nkomo School today being a full service primary school for over 1000 pupils, of which she is the principal.
Her community focus meant that she was also integral to the development of Khulani Special School in Mduku. Mrs Zikhali raised funds for its construction and played a key role in the consultative processes with community and the Department of Education. Her involvement has ensured the long term success of the school which serves 300 pupils living with disabilities.
Mrs Zikhali went on to secure funding to build a centre for orphaned and vulnerable children, based at Nkomo School, which provides after-school care for children attending Nkomo and other neighbouring schools.
Recognising the importance of conservation and the role of education in protecting the environment and wildlife, Mrs Zikhali is a leader in the Eco School programme, and Nkomo serves as a training school in the area.
As an ambassador for the Africa Foundation methodology for community empowerment and sustainable change, Mrs Zikhali mentors school principals in the area, illustrating how to take ownership of their own sustainable growth.
Mrs Zikhali is recognised by the judges as a humble leader, visionary teacher and a devoted community member.
We first met Sumayi James when we visited Lukungu School near Grumeti in 2006 and the projects the Africa Foundation were undertaking there. Sumayi was the Maths teacher, and we couldn’t help being impressed with this fine young woman. She was already a Local Champion who, in addition to her teaching duties, was reaching out to AIDS victims in the community and continues to look after AIDS orphans in her own home.
So, when the opportunity arose, the Africa Foundation were pleased to sponsor Sumayi to attend a two-year Diploma course in Early Learning at the Tanzanian College of Early Learning in Korogwe, so that she could take these extra skills back into her community.
As a result, Sumayi gave up her teaching job at Lukungu, left her three young children at home and – with the blessing of her very supportive husband and the community – took her place at the College to gain her Diploma.
My husband, Robin is the Chairman of Africa Foundation UK and we had promised Sumayi we would attend her Graduation, so, on 4th June 2010 we travelled out to Tanzania and were met at Kilimanjaro Airport early in the morning by Ernest Mgonho from &Beyond Foundation, and Jeremiah, Sumayi’s husband, who had come up from Lamadi near Mwanza on Lake Victoria.
We set off for the four hour journey to Korogwe, following the road to Dar es Salaam about 100 kms inland, through flat arid land, with the dramatic Usambara range of mountains running alongside us, then through extensive sisal farms, and climbing through the lush, almost tropical, foothills to reach Korogwe.
On the morning of the graduation, we gathered at the entrance to the College, established by Norwegians in 2001, and situated outside Korogwe with a beautiful view over the hills. Students, teachers and graduates, resplendent in their robes, had begun to sing and dance as the band played. Then, at a signal from the Principal, the band led the happy procession singing and swaying up the drive to the College and into the beautifully decorated main hall, open on all sides to the cooling breeze, packed with dignitaries, students from the College and from the Primary and Secondary schools associated with the college.
There was a full programme of events – performances from the school children from Hill View Primary and Hill View Secondary Schools, including poetry, a fashion show, recitals, dancing and singing and a particularly moving solo from a teenage AIDS orphan who had composed the hauntingly beautiful song himself, and which brought tears to many eyes. The graduates each gave a dissertation on a certain person in history who had made a significant contribution to early child care/education – Sumayi chose Maria Montessori as her subject.
The dignitaries, who comprised the Principal of the College, Chairman of the Governors, representatives from the Ministry of Health and Welfare, Administration of Children’s Rights, Law and Constitution, the Ruling CCM Party, the Water Board, and the District Doctor who attended to the students needs, all spoke eloquently and at length and then Robin and I were both called on to address the assembled crowd. Then the Principal awarded each Graduate their certificate, and their family and friends draped their candidate with brightly coloured garlands while everyone clapped and laughed.
So much preparation and forethought had gone into ensuring the success of this happy occasion and afterwards we were treated to lunch set out in the large dining hall, also open on all sides to take advantage of any cool air during the intense heat of the day.
That evening Sumayi had organised a special dinner at a local restaurant in Korogwe which was a joyous event, to thank the Africa Foundation as sponsors, to say goodbye to some of the graduates and teachers who had become her friends and to celebrate a tremendous achievement. There were more speeches, although this time one of the teachers acted as interpreter from Swahili to English, and the other way round when it was Robin and my turn to say our thanks. We congratulated Sumayi on a superb effort to achieve second place overall for the year, and we thanked her husband , Jeremiah, and the rest of her family for their amazing support which made it possible for her to spend two years so far away.
The Tanzanian Government is encouraging all Primary Schools to build a separate Pre-school and the Africa Foundation have raised funds to construct a Pre-school and OVC day-care centre next to the Lukungu Primary School – of which Sumayi will be the Principal. We hope that this Pre-school will become a centre of excellence for the surrounding areas, and that Sumayi will be able to use her qualifications to train local teachers wanting to specialise in Early Learning and to advise on the setting up of other Pre-Schools in the area and beyond.
It is with extremely heavy hearts that we convey the passing of Robin James, Chairman of Africa Foundation (UK) and trustee of Africa Foundation South Africa. Rob’s incredible legacy of uplifting the rural communities of Africa began 25 years ago, when he was a part of the visionary team that founded Africa Foundation. Back then, Rob had provided the organisation’s initial seed funding and was instrumental in charting its course to present day.
A truly dedicated and passionate individual, Rob’s steadfast commitment to empowering people through access to education, health and economic opportunities meant that he had an extraordinary impact on the lives of thousands of people. His daily dedication was unwavering and his years of service to the cause was unparalleled by any other. Our gratitude and words will never suffice. His wisdom and selfless contribution will truly be missed.
From all at Africa Foundation – we thank you Rob.
Rob is survived by his wife Judy and his children Stuart and Richard – our thoughts are with you all.
Photo from left: the late Lance Japhet, former Chairman of Africa Foundation; Africa Foundation Patron Archbishop Desmond Tutu; and the late Robin James, Chairman of Africa Foundation (UK)