Carrying the Light Forward: The Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund’s New CEO, Dr. Linda Ncube-Nkomo

“There is no keener revelation of the soul of a society than in the way it treats its children”- Nelson Mandela

Navigating a trust as significant as the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund needs experienced, capable hands, and the organization found just that in its new CEO, Dr. Linda Ncube-Nkomo, CA (SA), PhD.

Founded in honor of the South African freedom fighter and global advocate for peaceful resistance, the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund began in 1995 and carries the esteemed legacy of its founder forth into the world since then and to the present. An anti-apartheid activist and South Africa’s first democratically-elected president, serving from 1994 until 1999, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela inspires activists, freedom fighters, and global changemakers to this day. A legacy that is almost impossible to quantify in terms of impact and the direction of the country of South Africa, Nelson Mandela’s dynamic force and charismatic energy still energize the Children’s Fund and its founder, invigorating them with the spirit of change and gifting them the power to see it through.

Such is the style of leadership that Dr. Linda Ncube-Nkomo hopes to bring to the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund. Hailing from the business, development, and consulting sectors, Dr. Linda Ncube-Nkomo formerly served as the New Love Life Trust CEO for five years, serving as the Chief Financial Officer for two-and-a-half years prior to that. Her experience also includes membership on several boards, such as the Old Mutual Foundation, where she currently serves as the Chairperson of the Board of Trustees.

When it comes to the magnitude and gravity of the task before her, Dr. Linda Ncube-Nkomo is more than aware of the work needed and her vision for the organization moving forward. A depth of experience and practical acumen are two of the tools that will help her move the dial forward where the organization is concerned, but she also knows that she’s taking the reins of a powerful force for change and good in the world. And it is a job she is eager to get started and in earnest.

“The Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund was started by President Nelson Mandela during his term of office as the first democratically elected President of South Africa. He started the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund with one-third of his presidential salary as his personal response to changing the way society responded to children.  It was a pledge he fulfilled and a commitment made during his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech on 10 December 1993.”

Dr. Linda Ncube-Nkomo

Acknowledging the iconic reach of Nelson Mandela, and his global appeal, the organization continues to build on his legacy and extend his charisma worldwide even today. A huge part of Nelson Mandela’s success comes from his ability to communicate with others and the galvanizing action it has on impacted communities. A favorite of Hollywood luminaries then and now, Nelson Mandela reminded us that as long as there were “good men and women” this organization would endure. Indeed, it has flourished. Such is the spirit behind “Gone but not Forgotten – the legacy in Action!” With the reach of social media and the power of new technologies to find constituencies wherever they may be, it is not only unlikely that Nelson Mandela will be forgotten by today’s tech-savvy generation, but also they may have the chance to participate in his great work along with the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund.

“When our Founder & Chairperson, President Mandela, started the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund in 1995, the first cadre of major donors to match his presidential pledge and become NMCF President’s Club members were actors, producers and persons of influence.  President Mandela himself said: “As long as there are good men and women the Children’s Fund will exist well beyond his lifetime. Symbolically, this being the 10th commemorative year of his passing, the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund will be hosting a series of activities under the banner “Gone but not Forgotten – the Legacy in Action!”. Many of our initial supporters attend the Cannes Film Festival, so we are kickstarting our acknowledgment and homage at this auspicious festival. We will also be presenting a Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund Award to individuals that have made a monumental difference in the lives of children.”

Starting in the United Kingdom and the United States, the organization has rapidly expanded abroad, creating new linkages between different stakeholders across the globe. Branching out from the UK and the US, the organization has relied upon a vast network of partnerships to leverage collective goals towards a shared mission – all in keeping with the spirit and vision of Nelson Mandela himself who pioneered global awareness, collaborative approaches, and shared struggles.

“[President Mandela] opened the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund Affiliates in the USA and UK in October 1995 and July 1996, respectively, and we are expanding on that vision this year by opening NMCF Portugal, NMCF Spain and in other jurisdictions around the world with the hope of having at least 30 operating NMCF Affiliates by our 30th Anniversary in February 2025.  Partnerships such as Trigo Networks assist us in achieving our global vision.”

Dr. Linda Ncube-Nkomo stresses the need for organizational review and goal alignment to make sure that work on the ground corresponds with stated aims and objectives. Towards this end, the foundation conducts reviews every five years to evaluate the effectiveness of initiatives as well as chart the course for future endeavors. Currently, there are four major themes for the organization’s South Africa focus, Dr. Linda Ncube-Nkomo tells us, using the banners of “Health, Safety, Economic Resilience, and Youth Leadership & Empowerment.” Intended as guiding principles. Instead of holistic, all-encompassing maxims, the thematic choices reflect the issues facing children and the youth of today as well as some of the organization’s most pressing work.

“Every five years we review our work to ensure it is creating the desired impact.  We are currently in new five-year cycle where in South Africa we will focus on:

Health – both primary and secondary level healthcare for vulnerable children. Primary healthcare through ensuring pregnant mothers and children in their formative years living in the most rural and indigent areas of Southern Africa receive adequate nutrition to prevent stunted growth and ensure children are inoculated against communicable diseases.

Safety – to ensure our children are safe in schools, in their homes, and in their communities, with a special focus on the mental well-being and social connectedness of vulnerable children.

Economic Resilience – our intervention approach is family-centric. To rebuild families and restore their dignity to financially care for the vulnerable children in their family and the community, and mitigates generational poverty.

Youth Leadership & Empowerment – we convene dialogues that enable youth to contribute towards decisions that affect them and the world they want to live in. Some of the initiatives include the Nelson Mandela Children’s Parliament and Efeng Bacha (Southern Sotho translation for “What about the Youth”) – Child and Youth Advisory Board, Legacy Academy and Youth Bootcamps (that interrogate social justice issues such as generational poverty, gender-based violence, food and water security, child trafficking and child labor etc.), and the Alumni Programme to encourage former beneficiaries that are now young thriving and successful adults to give back to vulnerable communities and promote a culture of philanthropy.

As we open NMCF Affiliates around the world, consideration will be given to the interventions of vulnerable children in those countries. For example NMCF Portugal will be addressing the issue of refugee children from Syria and Ukraine, as well as Climate Change.”

Speaking about the youth specifically, Dr. Linda Ncube-Nkomo highlights the serious enormity of the work and how it is too much for one organization to tackle alone. Challenging the globe’s biggest problems often comes with a myriad of barriers and setbacks, but all of it works out in the end because of the joint efforts of organizations such as the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund and others. Partnership in this vein is an extension of Mandela’s legacy as well as a tacit acknowledgment of his mastery of united, grassroots action. When undertaking actions of this scale, we are quickly reminded to not lose sight of the forest for the trees but we are also reminded that the individual natures of each problem the organization tackles, the various trees within the broader banner themes, are each unique in their own ways thus making blanket solutions or general approaches less effective than an ears-to-the-ground mindset when it comes to future organizational efforts and planning.

“If we look at the state of our children globally, referencing the United Nations Report on the State of the World’s Children in 2021, there is much to be done and no organization can achieve its ambitious goals in isolation.”

Of course, with any movement, there comes the need to quantify success and change. Dr. Linda Ncube-Nkomo acknowledges this but also adds a qualitative element to the analysis that is often missing and that is the happiness of the children themselves. Using this as a yardstick for growth and success, the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund pushes a legacy of felicity and perseverance that has helped carry it forward since its inception in 1995.

“Our Founder & Chairperson in 1995, made a commitment on the world stage, and it is our duty and obligation to ensure that his personal response is perpetuated into the future.  Through the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund headquarters in South Africa, and its Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund Affiliates across the world, we will ensure his legacy and name lives on through our worldwide work – and our success will be measured in the happiness of our children.”

Committed to a better world under the banner of one of history’s most iconic, impactful figures, the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund perpetuates Mandela’s message, furthers his legacy, and supports the most vulnerable children and youth in the world. While the future undoubtedly holds a range of as-yet-unknown challenges, under the leadership of Dr. Linda Ncube-Nkomo and through the dynamic partnerships the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund has forged, there is little doubt that the organization has a bright future ahead of it and the legacy of Nelson Mandela and his vision for children will live on.

To learn more about Dr. Linda Ncube-Nkomo and the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, please visit https://www.nelsonmandelachildrensfund.com

 

 

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