Mount Madonna School – Ubuntu Project

Values in World Thought Program

A Learning Journey to South Africa

April 4th – 20th, 2009

Ubuntu Intro
Ubuntu Intro


by Project Leader Ward Mailliard

The African phrase Ubuntu in its essence means “I am because you are,” or stated another way “I am a human being through you.” It is a statement of interdependence and interconnectedness. It also calls us into of our highest human attributes such as sharing, empathy, respect and compassion.

The initial inspiration to take a group of high school Juniors and Seniors on this ambitious journey to an unfamiliar part for the world was the opportunity to meet and speak with one of the great men of out times, Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Tutu was a hero of the bitter struggle against Apartheid in South Africa. Even more importantly, Tutu was a healer of a divided culture as a major exponent of the “Truth and Reconciliation Councils” that put victim and victimizer together to remember their humanity and connectedness in order to forgive and move on.

Last year my wife Kranti and I went to Cape Town to meet Archbishop Tutu in the hope that we might be able to bring Mount Madonna students to meet him as part for the “Values in World Thought Program.” I was spurred on by the transformational magic of our 2007 trip to India to interview the Dalai Lama as part of Project Happiness. Through perseverance and the good luck of a friendship with a South African man by the name of Dawie Crous our request was granted.

Working in Class
Working in Class

I asked my 11th and 12th grade students if they wanted to go and got a resounding yes! We did not want to go empty handed so I asked Archbishop Tutu’s assistant what we could do to help our and she pointed us to the Philani Child Health and Nutrition Project in the township of Khayelitsha. The students led by juniors Mari Fox, Haley Turner and Mara Getz collected enough baby clothes, games and toys to fill 25 suitcases! The students also raised $2500. with projects like a hair cutting benefit and selling Ubuntu T-shirts at the flea market.

At one point in the planning Dawie suggested a detour to Johannesburg and a safari in Kruger National Park. Lisa Catterall, my colleague at Mount Madonna thought we should visit a project in the township of Soweto and Dawie suggested a visit to Cotlands HIV aids project for abandoned children. I emailed my new friend Linzi Thomas at MylifE, a project that is helping to get children who are homeless due to the AID’s crisis off the streets of Cape Town. With her enthusiastic support we set up a meeting with some of those children at her headquarters.

The pieces are still coming together in a mosaic that will include a trip to Robben Island where Mandela was incarcerated and a discussion with some of men who are veterans of that time. We will also explore the natural beauty that is South Africa and study the environment.

We are who we are on this journey because of so many others: because Ray and Alrene Flynn of the Windsor Mill family helped endow the trip so everyone could go; because our families and school were willing to make sacrifices; because Dawie Crous was willing to take time from the biggest fund raising project of his career to help us plan and organize; because the students said yes to the adventure and said yes to the challenges and discipline it will require; because our friends at the Santa Cruz Sentinel said yes to hosting this blog.

This trip is an example of the principle of Ubuntu. In truth, no journey in life happens without the help of others. We hope you will play your important role as witness to the journey because all stories need someone to listen and all rites of passage need to be witnessed by the community in order to be complete. Join us now and read to what our students discover about this very different world and witness what they learn about themselves.

11 thoughts on “Mount Madonna School – Ubuntu Project”

  1. I am not a human being through you, but rather through the God who created us and loves us with an everlasting love.

  2. Sn, 12th and 11th grade class,

    I am so happy to read this blog and see the amazing journey you are about to plunge yourselves into.
    what an amazing word. it makes so much sense! of course we are all interconnected. we are all in this together, we need to start realizing that though power can always be found within, it is vital to lean on the support and love of those around you. and they wonder why ant colonies are considered “one organism”… the power of connection is a beautiful thing. its about time us human beings got with the program…
    I wish for you all an inspiring and empowering adventure. In this heros journey you will be called on to share your knowledge an experience and bring the essence of Ubuntu to focus within many. hold nothing back and bring it all to the table.


    John-Nuri Vissell

  3. As a parent of one of the students making this trip – and just as a “Human” – I so happy the kids at MMS have this opportunity. It’s more than about just a “cool” trip for Juniors and Seniors.

    Having seen what MMS has done in the past, I don’t just “anticipate” – but “expect” that this journey will positively effect much more than the couple dozen students taking the trip – thousands or millions of people will likely be impacted in some significant way in future years as a result of this single trip.

    My hats off to the school, organizers, donors, and participants. I can’t wait to see the results.

    – Darryl

  4. Hi travellers! At this point I think you’re en route to Johannesburg. Have you changed yet? I want you to know how proud I was seeing you go forth into the bowels of SFO yesterday. You looked excited, brave, dashing(especially the boys with ties!), attentive, and eager for your adventure to begin. I can’t wait for reports back from you.

    SN – A special thank-you to you for spearheading this huge endeavor. Ever since Jack was a pre-schooler at MMS I’ve heard about your Values trips…Little did I know my son, now in 11th grade, would be included in your greatest adventure yet. My only regret? I wish I was with you!!

    Ubuntu, Gail

  5. Hi Everyone… It’s your friendly maintenance man:). I hope you all are having a wonderful time and a great life experience. I’ll be looking forward to reading how things are going. Have fun and take care.

  6. Well wishes of peace make there way to you and back on waves of everlasting fibers of love in the play of consciousness.

  7. It made me very happy to see the photo of all of you in your tee shirts and to read Ward’s description of how this journey came to be. It brought back wonderful memories of the Mount Madonna students I traveled with in 2007 to Dharamsala, India to meet the Dalai Lama. That visit is enshrined in my heart forever.

    May your journey be filled with love and light!

    The Dalai Lama Foundation

  8. Reading your wonderful descriptions I loved most of all the two lovely Haikus that were included. How much those simple 17 syllables expressed about the nature and world you were seeing. Hope you keep up the practice! Seena

  9. Hi,
    Hope you guys are having the time of your life right now.
    Mom, we miss you so so so … much!


    P.S say hi to Desmond for me

  10. Hey guys,

    I hope you guys are having a lot of fun over there! The school back hear is so weird not seeing you guys! I can’t wait to hear how it went! Have fun!


    Michaela <3

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