From a single idea in 1998 to a national network of grass-roots development projects across the country in 2009, Vukani-Ubuntu represents a victory of cooperative spirit that welled up from the desire to improve life for previously disadvantaged communities.
These communities are people who were deprived of opportunities most others would take for granted - the ability to sustain themselves. Vukani-Ubuntu started teaching them jewellery skills, within the framework of the jewellery industry.
This eventually led to formulating the now well-implemented Integrated Development Model, an ongoing blueprint for putting formerly marginalised individuals on safe footing, not only as skilled artisans, but also as entrepreneurs in their own right. Through the dedication to this noble mission Vukani-Ubuntu became the single largest trainer of emerging black jewellers in SA.
Vukani-Ubuntu was the first community development organisation of its kind in the country, generating interest and injecting wind of positive change in the jewellery sector in SA. It has established 11 community development projects in one decade, fundraised more than R 30-million from over 30 local and international donors. During the 10 year period Vukani-Ubuntu also trained over 400 students!
In terms of marketing, Vukani's efforts created several brands and marketing concepts of jewellery, designed and co-produced with our various projects and other relevant partners for the local and export markets. Ancient Precious Metals, capitalizing on "World's Oldest Gold", mined from Barberton and transformed into jewellery by the Umjinji Project, and the Kwaito Jewellery Range targeting SA's vibrant youth following the Kwaito music trend are examples of V-U marketing prowess. Most notably, Vukani-Ubuntu developed and established FairMade Jewellery SA, a concept adapted for SA jewellery industry from the global Fair Trade brand and based on the same humanitarian and environmental principles.
More recently Vukani-Ubuntu purchased shares in Metal Concentrators, one of the leading metal refiners in the country in the most significant and true broad based empowerment deals in the jewellery industry. This mutually beneficial venture will have further positive impact on the sustainability of development projects in South Africa by providing even better access to mentorship and technical support, making Metal Concentrators fully compliant with the SA Mining Charter in the process.
2009 saw the launch of another two ambitious development projects under the leadership of Vukani-Ubuntu. The Ekurhuleni Jewellery Project and Limpopo Jewellery Cluster connect several businesses and development organizations, combining training programmes with jewellery production on a large scale for local and overseas clients. They also employ qualified students from other Community Development Projects, providing fertile ground to start and grow their own businesses â€“ enterprise development.
The success started already with the name: "Humanity, wake up (Vukani) and help each other to help our communities (Ubuntu)." It was a complete mission statement in two words, a call to move, from helplessness and poverty to self-reliance and prosperity. From Dust to Gold. It conveys hope and inspires vision. It carries intent and defines the goal. Genuine concern about the cause, selfless dedication, unshakable belief that it can be done and the right insight has all been present too.
The more practical attributes of the success can't be overlooked: Flamboyant yet responsible management, thinking big but seeing details, ability to develop human resources. Insistence on quality, efficiency throughout. Energy and synergy. Vukani-Ubuntu has always been more than sum of its parts.
Perhaps these are some of the characteristics that captured attention and helped open the flood-gates of generosity from so many distinguished funders, sponsors and donors including the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund, European Union, givers local and international. The list is too numerous to complete here. Their understanding of Vukani-Ubuntu's aim has been crucial to moving forward.
Vukani-Ubuntu? Yes, they can. They know how and why. And their timing is always right.
Integrated Sustainable Development was applied to AJP - essentially a collaboration between a private funder (AngloGold Ashanti) and an existing training facility - in this case, the Atteridgeville FET College (Further Education and Training), with Vukani as project initiators and managers. The College was considered because they focused on occupational skills training and provided an existing secure facility within the Township. With AngloGold Ashantis funding and the sponsored premises secured, Vukani purchased a few basic pieces of jewellery-manufacturing equipment and set out to recruit passionate members of the local and other communities. Vukani advertised the new Project on local radio stations and spread the word by means of a loud-haler mounted on the back of a bakkie! Prospective candidates were subject to a very basic selection-test, which included dexterity and a must-have passion for this artisinal art. Before long, AJP had its first 12 enrolled students - historical first.
The 3-yr National Diploma (accredited by the then Jewellery and Precious Metal Industry Training Board) covered the following subjects:
- Jewellery / Manufacturing (Goldsmithing) - main subjects
- Design, Drawing, Sculpting, Computer and Business Skills - secondary subjects
- Practical jewellery production in a workshop environment - 3rd-year practical
News of this exciting new model spread like wildfire and thus Vukani was approached by a number of interested funders to set-up and manage more projects across the country.