CityPress - - News - LUBA­BALO NGCUKANA luba­balo.ngcukana@city­

Un­like most peo­ple, who spend Christ­mas with their fam­i­lies ex­chang­ing gifts and eat­ing sump­tu­ous meals, Sizwe Ku­pelo gives up his pre­cious time to en­ter­tain needy and vul­ner­a­ble chil­dren.

The new Eastern Cape gov­ern­ment spokesper­son has been host­ing chil­dren from ru­ral ar­eas, or­gan­is­ing jump­ing cas­tles for them, he­li­copter rides, and treat­ing them and their par­ents to feasts – mostly out of his own pocket and with the as­sis­tance of gen­er­ous donors.

Through the Sizwe Ku­pelo Foun­da­tion, a reg­is­tered not-for-profit or­gan­i­sa­tion he started in 2008, the spin doc­tor has touched many young, ru­ral lives.

“The aim is not to just feed them; it is to in­spire them. To­day, some of these kids are talk­ing about want­ing to be pi­lots be­cause they have been in a he­li­copter,” he said.

Ku­pelo, who spent more than a decade as the health de­part­ment spokesper­son serv­ing un­der six dif­fer­ent MECs, has qui­etly been fu­elling one of his pas­sions and mak­ing a dif­fer­ence in the lives of chil­dren from poor back­grounds.

“Since its in­cep­tion, the foun­da­tion has helped chil­dren who suf­fer from health com­pli­ca­tions by ar­rang­ing spe­cial­ist pri­vate health­care,” he said.

Although he started host­ing Christ­mas par­ties for chil­dren in his vil­lage of Mkankatho in Li­bode, he has since moved to other ar­eas.

He told City Press this week that he would have a spe­cial treat for 1 000 chil­dren in Tsholom­nqa out­side East Lon­don, where he will spoil them with food, toys and jump­ing cas­tles.

“Since 2008, I have not been spend­ing Christ­mas with my fam­ily like most peo­ple. I spend it with the needy be­cause I be­lieve they also de­serve hap­pi­ness. I take my own chil­dren to these par­ties so they can wit­ness the spirit of giv­ing.”

He said what gave him ful­fil­ment was to see the faces of joy from those he helped.

“When I see some­one in des­per­ate need for help, I get emo­tional and cry. I al­ways feel I need to do some­thing to as­sist.”

The foun­da­tion re­lies on gifts from in­di­vid­u­als, pro­fes­sion­als and small busi­nesses.

“We al­ways em­pha­sise that we don’t want mon­e­tary con­tri­bu­tions, and ap­peal to donors to buy gifts or any other es­sen­tials for do­na­tion,” he said.

As part of the back-to-school pro­gramme next month, the foun­da­tion will part­ner with var­i­ous busi­nesses to as­sist 14 schools in Lusik­isiki and Mthatha. The schools will re­ceive state of the art tablets for teach­ers and other ad­min­is­tra­tion staff, school shoes and uni­forms for poor learn­ers.

Ac­cord­ing to Ku­pelo, the back-to-school cam­paign, which was launched in 2011, has al­ready ben­e­fited 15 000 chil­dren and has helped to pro­vide bur­saries, lap­tops – that have been awarded to top ma­tric achiev­ers – and school uni­forms.

“We want to make sure that, with our part­ners in busi­ness, we con­tinue to help con­nect­ing ru­ral schools to ac­cess the in­ter­net so they can at least have ba­sic things like email.

“Our aim is to as­sist dis­ad­van­taged com­mu­ni­ties ac­cess re­sources they nor­mally would not have,” said Ku­pelo.


Sizwe Ku­pelo (sec­ond from left) at one of the Christ­mas par­ties he or­gan­ises for needy chil­dren

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