Lead SA Hero of the Year Finalists Announced
Lead SA has announced the regional the Hero of the Year winners, who will walk away with a share of R250,000 for a charity of their choice.
The votes have been processed and the judging has been completed.
Over the past year, Lead SA has been asking the public to nominate groups and individuals who are making a difference in their communities.
Heroes have been chosen in three provinces - Gauteng, the Western Cape, and KwaZulu-Natal.
"Since its inception, Lead SA has been encouraging South Africans to be active citizens and to make a difference, no matter how small, in their homes, schools, workplaces and in their communities," said Lead SA.
Dr Julia Ambler, one of Lead SA's Hero of the Year finalists
Dr Julia Ambler from KwaZulu-Natal, Jordan van der Walt from Gauteng, and Ashra Norton from the Western Cape have been named the Hero of the Year finalists in their regions and will attend the Lead SA 3rd Anniversary celebrations in Cape Town next Wednesday, August 21, where one of them will be crowned National Hero of the Year.
Dr Ambler is a paediatric palliative care specialist. Through her organisation, Umduduzi (meaning "the comforter"), Dr Ambler cares for terminally ill children, ensuring they spend their last days pain-free and surrounded by family.
The organisation also counsels families to prepare them for death. Dr Ambler admits that her job is emotionally tough, "but my work allows me to be grateful for my own children every day."
Jordan van Der Walt, Lead SA's Hero of the Year Gauteng finalist
Gauteng's finalist is Jordan van der Walt of St John's Preparatory School in Johannesburg. The 12-year-old learner single-handedly demonstrated that even the very young can make a huge difference in the lives of others.
Jordan was so moved by a documentary he saw a few years ago about South African children that go to school hungry each day, that he started the "Just One Bag" campaign, where he asked his schoolmates to bring one bag of maize meal to school.
"I just thought that kids might prefer something more nutritious so that when they went home, they wouldn't get hungry," Jordan said.
The "Just One Bag" campaign has been very successful and has collected over 100 tons of maize meal, feeding over one million children. Over 50 schools have taken part in the campaign and more than 50,000 children have brought a bag of maize meal to school.
Ashra Norton, Lead SA's Hero of the Year Western Cape finalist
Ashra Norton is considered a superwoman in the gangster-ridden community of Manenberg, Cape Town. Ashra provided the light in a community where very few feel there is hope.
In 2010, Ashra opened a free independent educational institution for underprivileged leaners called "The Leadership College". The school accommodates learners between grades 8 and 12 and currently has 220 learners.
Learners at the institution receive everything free - school uniforms, stationery, school bags, tracksuits and meals. The school is funded in part by a state subsidy (which contributes 40% of its needs) and the rest by donations and contributions from private businesses and individuals.
Ashra, who doesn't have much herself, continues to try and improve her community. The passion she has when talking about the learners, the importance of a quality education and the community's pride in the school is an inspiration.
One of these three heroes will be given the title of Hero of the Year and will receive R150,000 for a charity of their choice, courtesy of the Dis-Chem Foundation. The two runners-up will each receive R50,000 for their chosen initiatives.
"It is extremely exciting to see the amazing work of ordinary citizens be highlighted in this way," added Lead SA. "We hope that this initiative will encourage more citizens to stand up and be change-makers in their own communities."
The many Lead SA heroes over the past year "are winners in their own right. We salute each and every one of them. Keep the spirit of active citizenship alive and Lead SA."
The regional winners and their partners will be flown down to Cape Town courtesy of Mango Airlines and they will be accommodated at Mandela Rhodes Place.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu will deliver the keynote address at the Lead SA third anniversary celebrations next week.
For more information on the Lead SA Heroes initiative, please visit the Lead SA website.