I was recently working in London and it was simply one of those weeks. Nothing quite fell into place and I was having to change direction, change my thinking and basically work far harder than I expected to in order to get where I wanted to be. There are, however, always others having a harder time than ourselves and I always try never to forget that.
When one of the leading or at the very least better known economists writes openly, as he did this month, that it is, “Time to send all of your money out of South Africa”, then many people will and did sit up and take notice. It is, however, better to know all of the facts and thus always better to have at least a third, fourth or even a full hand of opinions, before you jump to such a total conclusion.
All four of our children have thoroughly enjoyed, or are still benefiting from, a school whose motto is simply, ‘We shall give back’. At first, I must admit, I found the line a little obvious and cheesy, but I now think that, if nothing else, it has always reminded my wife and I that as parents we should ensure that our children are considerate to other people’s needs and grow up to be adults who will also be kind, as well as generous of spirit and their time, willing always to help anyone less fortunate than themselves.
It is an old and accepted adage that ‘Charity begins at home’, and yet at 55 years old I still have no idea what that means! So, I have simply assumed it to be, ‘Ensure that your own family are safe, housed and fed. After that look to others and do what you can to make their lives better.’ Rotary and Masonic Clubs also say, take care of your home and business and then deliver charity. I assume that this all means the same thing, look after your loved ones, then your own source of security and then use that solid base to then do positive things.
Jews, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists and most other religions encourage their followers to do good deeds and there are thousands of examples, from all creeds, of followers putting others before themselves, however, no religion has a monopoly on doing good. Today it’s often hard to ‘differentiate philanthropy from publicity’, then again perhaps it does not matter, as long as the end result is that the less fortunate garner some benefit that they otherwise would never have enjoyed.
I am personally a very lucky man, and regardless of what the future brings, I have always worked diligently and thus enjoyed a ‘fair’ degree of good fortune. I knew very early on in my adult life that I had ‘to give back’. More importantly my upbringing, in an English, working class, Anglican home meant I often saw and experienced both sides of what was needed. Yet these needs were, and still remain, neglected by those who have the means, but not the sense of decency, understanding or desire to assist the most vulnerable and disadvantaged.
I have now been in business paying my own way for 25 years. I have lived more of my life in Africa than in Europe and I have seen more natural talent, humility and ability in African scholars than I have in many English private schools.
Warwick, who I am the CEO and Chairman of in Africa, deal with thousands of clients who live, as we would say in Lancashire, a ‘comfortable life’, and I am also delighted that they have always supported the company’s ‘community’ projects.
Spirit Education Foundation, was founded in memory of my sister Louise, during the month of our first free elections, back in April 1994 and over the last 23 years it has educated hundreds of scholars and funded thousands of years of education for children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Its largest sponsor has always been Warwick. Warwick also support the ‘Big Issue’ in Cape Town, as well as the Spirit Wildlife Fund, established by my wife Jooles Kilbride an animal activist, it is dedicated to saving the lives of young rhinos.
Supported by four Warwick directors, I am the chairman of Lord’s Taverners SA (LTSA), the UK Patron being Prince Philip and the President Sir Michael Parkinson. LTSA offers a ‘Sporting Chance’ to disabled and disadvantaged children in South Africa, it is an amazing organisation.
The ‘Spirit Foundation International’ (SPI), which I am also very proud to chair, supports disadvantaged children in the north west of England via, Everton in the Community (EITC) and the Everton Free School (EFS). It also helps fund ‘Warwick University in Africa’, a scheme that sends Warwick University graduates to teach in township schools in Africa, predominantly South Africa, Ghana and Tanzania.
I would therefore like to take a moment to thank everyone, including the generous staff and clients of Warwick who assist Warwick, Spirit, LTSA, EITC, EFS, Warwick in Africa, the Big Issue and also the ‘Little Optimist’, a charity run by Greg Bertish, an amazing man committed to the Red Cross Children’s Hospital.
If I am ever asked, ‘So what can I do?’ I answer as I did to my friend Greg, ‘Just go out and do some good’, because that is all we can ever hope to achieve!
The bigger they are the harder they fall! Good advice to any guy picking up a rugby ball for the first time, but until you make that first hard committed tackle you only half believe it. Then that giant tumbles to the ground, like a felled tree and you realise that it didn’t even hurt, well not so much that you would ever tell anyone about it!
It has been about a month since my last article but that was all done simply to get you all panting with excitement for this latest instalment. Actually, Alec Hogg, an old friend and fellow entrepreneur told me to “get some real work done”, so I did and left the field open for his great journalistic mind.
Bastille Day, 14th July, a day of celebration and joy in France and the cry of Libertè, Égalitè, Fraternitè is heard throughout the streets on Montmartre and a general sense of bon homme prevails across the country. Can you imagine, however, just how well 14th July 2008 was celebrated in Riyadh, Dallas and Aberdeen, not because any of them particularly love the French and their sense of freedom, no simply because on that day oil went to $145 a barrel, its highest price in the last ten years.
Democracy as we know it, has it already peaked as an effective form of ensuring that the “people,” other than professional politicos get what they truly want?
Can you imagine “Dave of the people Cameron”, being kicked out simply for failing to deliver on his promises of five years ago? Or can you visualise “Jacob protector of the constitution Zuma”, being thrown off his constitutionally destructive perch just because he lied, cheated and stole the people’s money? The answer is probably no to both, which is in itself a very sad and troubling position for us all to be in, given that we believe that we live in a democracy.
I enter the cool environment and smell that manly aroma, immediately you see them and know that they are all lost souls. In a dreamlike state, they wonder the isles looking for things they neither need or require things they will possibly, no probably, never use, but for a brief moment they must own it more than anything else in the world.
It has been said that “Power corrupts, but absolute power corrupts absolutely”, but what is more subtle is the ability of politicians all over the world to forget almost instantly their previously stated positions on many issues.
At first I felt rather sick listening to the American big guns become instant lovers of free speech, freedom of the press and generally “freedom” of everything. My first impression was that they are just acting like a “real Charlie” rather than relating to anything that Charlie Hebdo actually stands for.
In January 1990 I stepped off a ferry in Ceuta Morocco and started a love affair with Africa that has lasted 25 years and one I hope will last another 50 years, as long as I still have my wits about me as I will then be 102 years old.
What then followed was a six month journey covering fascinating lands, lakes and rivers and took in over twenty African nations, all varied, challenging and fascinating in their own way. The memories from that adventure will live with me forever, but it will remain uniquely the only six months of my life about which I can recall, even a quarter of a century later, exactly where I was and what I was doing in any particular month. A truly amazing experience and virtually impossible to repeat today, as many areas of Algeria, Nigeria, DRC (Zaire as it was then) and several other nations are simply no go zones and or completely inaccessible.