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‘This is All Yours’: Opening Remarks for Isivivana Centre in Khayelitsha

Resource type: Speech

David Sternlieb, Chief Operating Officer, The Atlantic Philanthropies |

David Sternlieb, Chief Operating Officer of The Atlantic Philanthropies, delivered these remarks at the October 13, 2016 opening of the Isivivana Centre in Khayelitsha township, outside Cape Town, South Africa. Acclaimed author and filmmaker, Zanemvula “Zakes” Mda led the ceremony, hailing the new center as being “instrumental” in Khayelitsha’s development and calling Isivivana “a glimmer of hope, hope that we all need.”

The center is a project of the Khayelitsha Youth and Community Centre Trust, an Atlantic grantee.

Isivivana Centre
Isivivana Centre on opening day. Photo: Martin O’Brien

Thank you, everyone, for joining us today for this exciting celebration. It’s my pleasure and privilege to be here in Khayelitsha with all of you for the opening of the new Isivivana Centre.

I’d also like to extend my thanks to our partners at the Harry Crossley Foundation and the Bertha Foundation, the great team that has worked on making this idea a reality, and everyone at the inspiring organizations that have already moved into this incredible building, including our friends at the Treatment Action Campaign, Pro Bono, the Social Justice Coalition, Equal Education and Equal Education Law Centre, Médecins sans Frontières, Workers’ World, and Tho-peh Foundation

For those of you who aren’t familiar with The Atlantic Philanthropies – the organization I work for – we are a grantmaking foundation that seeks to enhance equality, representation, rights, and opportunity around the world.  It’s for that reason that we’ve funded this Centre, which the people of this community have helped build.

In South Africa, as in other countries such as Vietnam, Ireland, Cuba and the United States, we have invested in local communities and organizations seeking to increase access to and the quality of education and health care; reduce discrimination and disparities in societies with long legacies of conflict and colonialism; and improve services delivered and rights guaranteed to the most disadvantaged and at-risk members of our communities, like children and older people.

Atlantic was first drawn to South Africa in 1991 as apartheid was ending, seeing an opportunity to support those working to protect rights and promote reconciliation in the rising democracy. Over the past quarter-century, Atlantic has invested $350 million in South Africa to advance and uphold justice, promote better health care, enhance the quality of and access to universities, and deliver services that support transformative social change, improve human rights and dignity, and fulfill the promises guaranteed in the Constitution.

Atlantic has also been privileged to work with the Treatment Action Campaign and AIDS Law Project to motivate the government to do what’s right in responding transparently, comprehensively and effectively to the urgency of the HIV/AIDS crisis. By supporting groups like the Legal Resources Center, Black Sash and Pro Bono, we have sought to help ensure that some of the most marginalized in this society – such as immigrants, LGBTI and rural farm workers– can access and exercise their rights and participate fully in the South African democratic process, while organizations like Equal Education, the Social Justice Coalition and Section 27 continue to defend that democracy and protect the services and opportunities guaranteed to all.

Housing a number of these organizations under the same roof here at Isivivana will bring Atlantic’s South African family closer together, to collaborate, share, and continue to advance the vital work you all do.

And we are confident that, just as the community here has embraced the new center, the City of Cape Town and a responsive Government will continue to embrace it as well and enable it to thrive – we’re grateful for its help to date, and we know we can expect more help in the future.

We are proud – humbly proud – to not only just support those who are building the future here in Khayelitsha, but to help build something here – a place with a solid foundation, and the beating heart of your dedicated work – to build a place for you all to build the future.

As you all well know – much better than I do – there is a long and inspiring history of persistent, passionate and uncompromising activism and advocacy here in the township for better schools, safer streets, quality health care and sanitation, HIV treatment, freedom from homophobia, responsive policing and a future fundamentally different from the racist, colonial history of South Africa – essentially, this community has never wavered in its dedication to fighting for its existence with full rights and dignity – to be not only recognized, but respected.

Atlantic has shared in and supported this work for decades – here and around the globe. These values are our values. What is not ours, however, is this beautiful Isivivana centre – this is all yours.

Thank you.

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