The Ubuntu project
Ubuntu is a self-help project launched in South Africa 2005. Its focus is partner- and entrepreneurship leaving the participants with the responsibility for planning, implementation and continuous progression. The participants are mainly project managers with a history of volunteering as project managers in after school care projects.
After the participants own wish the Ubuntu project took shape of a soap manufacturing business able to supply both tourists and the local community. The intention of the prpject was to create an enabling environment for its members to enable them to earn a living through manufacturing and selling soaps. It should form a platform to start other fundraising projects that would supplement and sustain the after school care projects in various townships. These projects main focus is HIV and AIDS, child abuse and human rights. All this leading to Ubuntus overall goal – a self-help project providing means to reduce unemployment and crime, improve social conditions and contribute in providing income. To meet these challenges the participants wished counseling and education.
The Ubuntu project has reached its goals and is now locally owned and self sustained.
How the Ubuntu project came to be
PASCaP, Partners with After School Care Projects (www.pascap.org.za), an NGO situated in South Africa offers programs and courses for young township inhabitants seeking to work as project managers in after school care projects. As previously mentioned the project managers has been involved in, as well as started, projects reaching out to several thousands of children in the age between 6 and 16. In the projects they learn about HIV and AIDS, child abuse and human rights. PASCaP continuously provides courses to advance the competence and knowledge of the project managers. A big challenge for the project managers has been the fact that they work as volunteers. They haven’t received a pay check since they started as project managers in 2000. As time has passed this has been an increasing problem for them.
In 2005 Nina Tanggaard spent her internship with PASCaP and came to meet project managers involved in after school care projects in Queenstown. This town is located in Eastern Cape which is the poorest province in South Africa. The idea of the Ubuntu project saw its first light as a result of this as Nina and the project managers formed it in April 2005. The project managers expressed their wish to obtain some income so it would be possible to precede the work with the after school care projects. They voiced the idea of a soap business that could produce natural handmade soaps to sell to both tourists and local business. To put this idea into action they needed finances, knowhow, as in courses, and means.
The following April, May and June twelve project managers in Queenstown and Nina Tanggaard formed action plan, business plan and contracts of employment for the Ubuntu project. The local project managers were to be responsible for carrying the project through and assuring its sustainability. PASCaP were to aid with transportation of supplies, counseling, education and motivation. Nina was to hold courses and ensure education as well as providing finances to start the project.
During the summer of 2005 Hilde Marie Kvarenes also became involved in the Ubuntu project. The following August Nina and Hilde Marie travelled from Norway to South Africa to assist the launch of the first starting stage of the project. Through the next year they provided courses, counseling, and were responsible for the communication between PASCaP and the local project managers. The courses and soap manufacturing took place in a little church in Mlungisi township in Queenstown.
The spring of 2006 the Ubuntu project opened its first combined store- and manufactory facility in Queenstown. The main responsibility for the daily business was transferred to the local project managers, while Nina and Hilde Marie continued their international coordination, counseling, guidance and support. PASCaP remained as an important liaison for the future evolvement of the project, both in new products and new business partners.
Throughout 2007, 2008 and 2009 the Ubuntu project kept progressing. As of fall 2007 we moved into new facilities situated much more strategically. The products got new wrapping. The order book grew to include both big and small hotel chains as buyers. The manufacturing of soap had become a product line containing body lotion, body butter, lip balm, massage oil, bathing salt, shower gel and shampoo in addition to the original series of soaps. During this period Nina was based in Norway and contributed from there, while Hilde Marie spent another period in Queenstown. In 2008 the Ubuntu project were involved in several after school care projects as originally planned. In addition, local business partners contributed with as well food as material supplies for the participants of some of these projects.
In the end of 2008 all partners involved in the Ubuntu project agreed that the project had driven sufficiently by local means and personnel, and thus self-sustained. The goal, to create a project that is locally owned and sustained without international aid, had been accomplished. The Ubuntu project continues to exist, and does so by the hands of local South Africans. Therefore, Nina and Hilde Marie ended their financial responsibilities and engagement in the project in 2009.