Abigail Holstein, US Development Director
On my computer desktop, I keep two clocks—one set to Eastern Standard Time, the other set to South Africa time. I can do the math, but I like to look at the second clock and imagine what Angela and the staff at Thanda are up to on the other side of the world.
As Thanda’s new Director of Development for the US, my job is to bring Thanda to those of you who live here, in America. In writing and in person, I want to bring to life the numerous ways what you are supporting is truly special.
Even just a few weeks on the job, I can already lay out a million examples to prove just that, examples that illustrate the progress and success happening on so many levels at Thanda, from the principles that guide the organization to stories of individual children and staff members, to the tangible changes Thanda has produced in the community in its short four-year history. But I’ll save them for another time. For now, I just want to communicate one idea: when you give to Thanda, you are giving to a solution.
Let me explain.
Before I decided to join the nonprofit world, I volunteered for Thanda—offering thoughts on web site re-designs, throwing Thanda Zulu jewelry parties, helping at Thanda functions in NYC. Like most of you, I imagine, I got involved with Thanda because of Angela. I’ve known Ang since I was 14 when we were high school chums. She’s a force of nature, and I so believed in her and her desire to see Thanda succeed, that I happily helped out however and whenever I could.
Angela, Me, and Holly Buchanan at a Thanda Fundraiser in 2010
The more I did for Ang, the more I learned about Thanda, and the more I realized that it was unlike any other nonprofit I had ever encountered. With terrific research and understanding, Ang and Tyler had designed and were beginning to execute a plan that would help devastated communities heal themselves and rise above the destruction of HIV/AIDS and poverty, permanently. When I had helped with fundraisers and events, I was supporting lasting change, an end to a problem, in other words, a solution.
When I decided to make the leap to the nonprofit world, I went looking for other Thandas—organizations with models of lasting change. There aren’t as many as you’d think there’d be in these days of social entrepreneurship and micro-finance and new wave philanthropy. So I was thrilled to join Ang and Thanda. After all, they’d been my compass all along. And it has felt like coming home.
Angela, Me, my Husband Greg, and Tyler outside Thanda’s Library and Community Center
You may have never stepped inside the cold damp of a cement and thatch hut in rural South Africa. Until my recent trip to South Africa, I hadn’t either. Inside, I found a small army of children, all under the age of 12 and all under the care of one elderly woman, bent with age. There was no electricity and certainly no plumbing, and one double bed for everyone. When it was time to go and everyone came out into the light to say goodbye, it was clear it wasn’t the shadows, but that everyone’s clothes were filthy with dust. The children all kept the same posture when I waved to them—shoulders hunched, eyes low, unfixed. Their little bodies were working so hard to survive that they couldn’t even engage me on this most basic level.
The children who are a part of Thanda’s programs are vibrant. They can’t keep still, they are so excited to get inside Thanda’s gates for Thanda After-School and see the staff, the library, to play with each other. There is constant noise, warmth and energy in that building. It is the exact opposite of life in those huts.
Making sure we play with every toy in the Children’s Corner.
What happens at Thanda are the first steps toward long term change for this community and for all the other communities Thanda is going to reach with its programs and curriculum. I feel thankful, every day, to be a part of it, even all the way over here in Brooklyn. And if you are reading this blog post, you are a part of it, too—and thank you for helping us come this far. I can’t wait to meet you in person and talk about Thanda with you soon.