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The Winnie Mabaso Foundation

22nd February 2019

By Susie Ma

winnie mabaso photo .jpg

Hey everyone, Susie here. I just wanted to share with you all something very close to our hearts at Tropic that we would love you to be a part of too...

Giving, be it for a birthday or an anniversary, undeniably makes us feel great. Charitable donations are like tokens of kindness, which show people how much we care about them. Sometimes though, the things we might take for granted, such as opportunities, a full stomach, independence and daily essentials, make for important gifts to others.

You don't need a wealth of resources to help people, often the biggest differences are made when one person displays a random act of kindness. I can’t think of a more perfect example than Winnie Mabaso and the legacy she has created through the Winnie Mabaso Foundation.

The story of the Winnie Mabaso Foundation started when Winnie Mabaso herself, a retired auxiliary nurse, offered soup to a few of the neighbourhood children twice a day. The group was originally called Zenzele — a Zulu word that means do it yourself. She stood at her garden gate to serve children, creating a line of people waiting for soup that stretched all the way down the street.

"If I don't do it, nobody would. This has got to start somewhere." - Winnie Mabaso


Soon enough, she was finding it too much to handle on her own, so she asked neighbours to help her. Inspired by the difference Winnie was making, they joined her efforts. It wasn’t long before she had 20 volunteers, not only cooking for children three times a day, but also visiting and feeding sick neighbours, and caring for them in any way they could. After two years, the volunteer group had grown to 50.

When Lisa Ashton, a BBC programme maker at the time, first visited the orphanage in 2004 for a documentary, she decided to interview Winnie Mabaso herself. Touched and inspired by Winnie’s kindness to give back, Lisa returned to the UK and began fundraising for Winnie.


Sadly, just a few months later, after enough money was raised for the children's new home, Winnie passed away very suddenly. At her funeral, which Lisa attended, all the children from the orphanage stood hand in hand around her coffin. It was in that moment that Lisa decided to continue Winnie's kindness and philanthropy, and so, in Winnie's memory, the Winnie Mabaso Foundation was born. For 9 years Lisa juggled her job at the BBC with running the Foundation until, in 2013, she handed in her notice to run the charity full-time.

Since starting the Winnie Mabaso Foundation in 2004, Lisa and her team have launched incredible projects to support women and children. The projects include Ilamula House (Zulu for lemon on account of the beautiful lemon tree in the front garden), a home for abused, abandoned and orphaned girls, a preschool for underprivileged children, a library, a sewing school, a gardening project, a granny club and a feeding station.

In early 2017, one of our Ambassadors, Louise Buckley, got in touch with us about the foundation. We agreed that it aligned perfectly with Tropic's values around empowering women, and we are so proud to have become part of their story.

Since partnering with the Winnie Mabaso Foundation, we’ve raised over £60,000 thanks to the generosity of our Ambassadors at our Glambassador® events. The entirety of these proceeds have gone directly to the incredible causes that the foundation supports.

Tropic x Winnie Mabaso Final

At one of our Glambassador® events, we raised enough money for a brand new 24-seater bus, which is big enough to transport all of the children at once, allowing them to enjoy more days out together. At another event, we raised enough money to pay for groceries for Ilamula House for an entire year!

Over the past two years, our Ambassadors have donated over 1,500 packets of fruit and veg seeds, an entire van’s worth of children’s clothes, as well as over 2,000 pairs of underwear and 4,000 pairs of socks. These are life-changing essentials that we take for granted every day. Our Ambassadors donations were also felt in the wider community with any excess clothing and necessities donated to other charities and groups in the area, with our fundraising efforts reaching more people than we could ever have imagined.

Just as Winnie's mission inspired others, we've seen that doing good encourages others to do the same. Separate from our Glambassador® fundraising events, Ambassadors have drawn on the financial freedom they have from being part of the Tropic family to personally support the Winnie Mabaso Foundation. From sponsoring the girls and grannies, to completely funding the construction and materials of an entire home for a family in need, they've shown dedication and generosity towards the work the foundation undertakes.


Back in January, myself and over 190 of our Ambassadors were honoured to meet the children of Ilamula House, the grannies and of course, Lisa. Together, we had a fantastic afternoon having lunch, a river cruise, and a splash at the Sun City Water Park. The grannies were also treated to a safari drive too. It was a day that I’ll truly treasure and never forget.

We were overcome with emotion at the gratitude and hospitality we received from everyone at the foundation. Seeing firsthand how our donations had generated incredible change in so many lives was when it all rang home to me; none of this could have happened without the random act of kindness Winnie Mabaso made all those years ago.

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Our next mission is to help the foundation replace the leaky roof at the Ilamula House orphanage. It needed a fair bit of TLC when the foundation moved in, but they used what funds they had to adapt it to ensure it was a cheerful home for the girls that live there. However, over the years, the roof has got worse and now when it rains, the house is soaked, leaving huge black marks on the girls’ ceiling. We’d love to raise money to help make the orphanage weather-tight, leak free and ensure Illamula House is a sturdy, safe haven for years to come.

You can get involved by clicking HERE

Kindness is universal, timeless, and I truly believe everyone is richer from it. I’m so proud of how our Ambassadors uphold our infinite purpose by championing positive change and inspiring others to do so too. Together, we’re committed to being a force for good beyond beauty. I can’t wait to see the change we make next!

Love, Susie xx

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