In 2009 Nelson Mandela Day was launched internationally in recognition of Nelson Mandela’s birthday. The day was voted by a unanimous decision of the UN General Assembly. Early in 2009, Nelson Mandela made a call for the next generation “to take on the burden of leadership in addressing the world’s social injustices”.


Every year we see amazing initiatives being launched and carried out on this day, some lasting the 24 hours and some going on to domino onto the other 364 days of the year.


Last week we shared a few Mandela Day events you can take part in. Today, we want to highlight a few South Africans who have taken on the burden of leadership into their own lives and are making South Africa great. Each started something with the aim of changing South Africa (and eventually the world) for the better. They didn’t start it because of Mandela Day, but through their unselfish actions, have landed up living Nelson Mandela’s 2009 call: “It is in your hands now”.


Mark Sham

South African’s making South Africa great every day - Mark Sham


Name: Mark Sham

Age: 32

What he does: Mark has founded multiple companies including Vivid Engage, Interactive Direct and Crossfit 1448, but most notably, in 2015 he brought Suits and Sneakers to life.


How it improves South Africa:

Suits & Sneakers, dubbed ‘The University of Informal Learning’ holds multiple events (FOR FREE) throughout the year to give any South African (or any visitor to SA at the time of the event) access to educating themselves about various topics. “We want people to leave having learned one or two simple, yet vital lessons and we want to inspire them to be excellent in every aspect of life.”


We want people to leave having learned one or two simple, yet vital lessons and we want to inspire them to be excellent in every aspect of life.


This year I attended their main showcase event for the first time. There were 3000 attendees (registration was free), four speakers and four different 20-30 minute topics. I left incredibly inspired.


I have also since attended two of their fixed events ‘optimising human function’ and ‘Determine to be profitable’. I can attest to every event being:


Educational, and

Life Changing (if you let it).


In his own words:

When mark fell into public speaking by ‘chance’ and a series of events in his entrepreneurial career led him to running a book review event on ‘Inside Coca Cola’, he began to wonder about what happened to the people he inspires a week out, two weeks out etc. He realised he was a hypocrite. What happened to him in between the times he gave his talks? He started watching Ted Talks and decided to trade TV with watching these inspirational talks. “I became obsessed with human development.” He realised the value of informal learning and the lack of infrastructure in South Africa providing vehicles for it. “We need to understand the value of zooming out and thinking more global.”


Mark started Suits & Sneakers because of his two obsessions; Informal learning and human development.


“Human development is not just my deal, it’s not just your deal, it’s everyone’s deal.”


He then went a step further by aligning big sponsors to his mission so the events could be free. “I made suits & sneakers free because I don’t want to hear of people who wanted to join us at our event but never had the money to afford being there.”


Check out the Suits&Sneakers website here

Watch a host of inspirational videos on their YouTube channel.

Subscribe to their newsletter here to be notified of their next event.


John McInroy

South African’s making South Africa great every day - John McInroy

Name: John McInroy

Age: 34

What he does: John McInroy founded Red Sock Friday in 2009, The Unogwaja Challenge in 2011 and subsequently the Unogwaja Charitable Trust in 2015.


How it improves South Africa:

Red Sock Friday is a movement which has connected people in more than 70 countries in the world, across all 7 continents. ‘I wear red socks on Fridays’ is a community/movement dedicated to making a difference, being passionate, inspiring others and being inspired, staying positive, remembering friends and expressing yourself. It sees individuals donning red socks on Fridays and most often is linked with running. This initiative started as a link between John and his best friend to remind them both of their friendship and reinforce their bond no matter the distance between them. You can read the whole story here.


I joined the movement in 2012 after hearing John speak at a Comrades roadshow. The unity I have both witnessed and experienced since I put on my first pair of red socks has been nothing short of amazing. The Red sock Friday movement has blurred the lines of nationality, gender, age, race and stature in ways that you can’t comprehend until you jump on board.


Join their facebook page here

Get your hands on a pair of these socks here


The Unogwaja Challenge is a 10 day, 1,660km cycle from Cape Town to Pietermaritzburg to take part in the Comrades Marathon on the 11th day. It is a journey of the heart inspired by Phil Masterton-Smith (whose nickname was “Unogwaja” meaning hare in Zulu). His courage and determination in the face of adversity are at the core of the Unogwaja Challenge. It has become an annual journey that brings together a small group of people chosen from all over the world.


Initially Aligned with the 6 official Amabeadibeadi Comrades Marathon charities (Pink Drive, Community Chest, Starfish, The Sports Trust, Wildlands and World Vision) they raised a total of R2 million from 2011-2015 for these organisations, before deciding to take their mission further.


Since meeting John at that fateful roadshow, we have been avid supporters of this challenge. We’ve profiled their athletes, ran alongside them on Comrades day, joined in on raising money as part of the red love train and ultimately been inspired by the courage of the athletes, the determination in raising large sums of money (I struggle with A 5K target, their athletes achieve well above 50K) and the sparks of change they bring to teeny tiny communities as they cycle across our country.


Visit their facebook page here

Check out their website here

Get a taste of the challenge by watching these, and then

Become an Unogwaja in 2017 by applying here


In 2015 John decided to do more for South Africa when he founded the Unogwaja Charitable Trust and started looking for organisations which he dubbed ‘Unogwaja Lights’ that he wanted to assist. These organisations focus heavily on empowering rather than giving handouts.


In his own words:

“It has always been my dream since very early on in this journey to align the special message of Unogwaja with our collective charity vision and mission. This vision can be broadly described under “education” but at its core is the willingness to support, enable and empower those people in our country who have not given up hope and who are already doing their best to make it better for themselves and the people around them, regardless of their circumstances. Anything we do must result in something tangible that will help people to help themselves. In this way those we help do not learn to rely on handouts but hopefully learn to fend and create for themselves and teach others. After all it is their resilience and perseverance that brought us to them in the first place.”


Anything we do must result in something tangible that will help people to help themselves.


Since launching the trust they have raised a further R2 million with funds going toward their ‘lights’. These being Vukusebenze in Cradock, Lebone Village in Bloemfontein, Umsilinga Primary School just outside of Pietermaritzburg and various focus areas in Langa, Western Cape.


Read more about them here.

See for yourself who and how they help here

Donate here


Shaun and Dayle Raaff

South African’s making South Africa great every day - Shaun and Dayle Raaf

Name: Shaun and Dayle Raaff

Age: 31 (Shaun), 29 (Dayle)

What They Do: Shaun, a Partner in a Headhunting and Recruitment firm and Dayle, a Strategic Communication lecturer at the University of Johannesburg took their marriage partnership to the next level when they founded Mad2Run.


How it improves South Africa:

MAD2Run is an annual fund raising event in support of the MAD Leadership Foundation™. It’s a 7-day 24 hours non-stop long relay-style running adventure from Johannesburg to Cape Town with 12 runners embracing the journey of roughly 200km each.


In 2012 Shaun decided that it was time be proactive and make a positive contribution to his much loved country, South Africa. After watching an inspirational talk given by Braam Malherbe (who ran across the great wall of China in aid of the charity Miles for Smiles). He got home, rather emotional, and immediately sent out an email to all of his friends and invited them around for an “emergency braai”. Over a few too many beers he was able to convince his mates that they needed to do something meaningful in their lives. The maddest suggestion – lets run to Cape Town…It will be fun they said…


We [both] believe education to be the best way of improving ones standing in life, which has a substantial and sustainable impact on the holistic betterment of society.


They partnered with the MAD Leadership Foundation because of the alignment and shared vision and passion. “We [both] believe education to be the best way of improving ones standing in life, which has a substantial and sustainable impact on the holistic betterment of society.”


Four years later, he has not only gotten his wife and a few mates to run Mad2Run as a passion project on the side of their busy lives, but they have successfully run 3 editions of Mad2Run (2014, 2015 & 2016) have raised over R1million for the MAD Leadership Foundation and have just closed entries for the 2017 edition.


In their own words:

“We believe the children are our future 😉 Clichéd, but true!


We are huge believers in the ‘Education Effect’; that a (relatively) small contribution of funds towards a few bright learners, will have a significant and sustainable effect on the future of our country. For us, the knowledge that these talented, dedicated and passionate young MAD Scholars are the right mix of innovative productivity and rational thought-leadership that will grow and prosper our country in both the private and public sectors.”


Brent Lindeque

South African’s making South Africa great every day - Brent Lindeque

Name: Brent Lindeque

Age: 31

What he does: Brent is a Change Maker, Thought Leader, Entrepreneur, Radio Host on CliffCentral, Managing Director at Chaos Theory, Public Speaker, Mcee, Advocate for good, and Editor in Chief at GoodThingsGuy.

How it improves South Africa:

Brent is well known for starting a social media revolution in 2014 through his positive spin on #neknominations. When the online drinking game, Neknominate, was having its social media moment and he was neknominated, instead of filming himself downing alcohol in one gulp, he turned neknominations on its head and created “raknominations” instead.


RAK which stands for Random Acts of Kindness, started when he used his neknomination to film himself giving a guy on the side of the road a sandwich and a Coke and nominating two of his friends to also perform random acts of kindness.


Using the power of social media to “pay-it-forward” his nomination went viral. Through his simple YouTube gesture spreading around the world, he managed to touch hundreds and thousands of people, save lives and numerous similar initiatives spawned because of it.


Most notable is that he didn’t stop there. He decided to use the platform that Raknominations had given him by continuing to be a Crusader for good started out with a single post, and the understanding that people inherently wanted to do and share good news. The site highlights a range of good news categories covering environmental, social, political, and even just-for-fun sections.


Not ever being satisfied with status quo, Brent is currently working on the next phase of turning armchair activists into agents for change by launching a charitable crowdfunding initiative dubbed the “High-5” in the coming weeks with his team. The High-5 fund aims to offer his readers a chance to both nominate, and then contribute R5 to a bi-weekly charity of their choice. The simple concept of micro-activism is both engaging and real, and Brent and his team are confident that the next chapter in the history of South Africa’s own Good News pied-piper, is as successful as the last.


GoodThingsGuy shows a real side of South Africa, one that we can be proud of. There are so many good news stories that need to be shared. These are the stories that bring us together, inspire us to be better and make us proudly South African”.


In his own words:

“[I started GoodThingsGuy because ] I just got sick and tired of all the negativity on my social media timelines. I realised that we actually subscribe to what we see, so what if I created a space to fill timelines with good news… the things that really matter. I did & a year later we have over half a million monthly readers, proving that good news matters!”


we actually subscribe to what we see, so what if I created a space to fill timelines with good news… the things that really matter


Visit GoodThingsGuy here to get your daily dose of good news.

Learn more about his RAK initiative, which still lives on today, over here.


Audrey Brummer

South African’s making South Africa great every day - Audrey and Ruan Brummer


Name: Audrey Brummer

Age: 53

What she does: Audrey and her husband Ruan (who works in a specialized Unit within the SAPS, formerly known as the Child Protection Unit) opened their own home to establish the Malachi Place of Safety in 2005.


How it improves South Africa:

Audrey and Ruan were at a community talk in Edgemead, when a social worker got up to speak and asked the attendees who was willing to open their home to abused and abandoned children. Audrey raised her hands and soon after a 9 month old baby boy who was physically abused by his parents, was placed in their care.


Since then, the past 11 years has seen Audrey and Ruan selflessly creating a safe environment for over 160 abused and abandoned children. They have done it at the sacrifice of their own finances and been through the tough times of giving all of their love to kids that come into their home and then get taken away. (Either placed in foster care, returned to their families or placed in children homes.)


While the children are in the home they are provided with a loving, caring family environment; something many of them are not familiar with. They are also provided with all the normal everyday needs of children, like food, clothing, medicine, education, etc.


“We try and restore their trust in adults and give them hope for the future.”


I found out about Audrey and Malachi House through Blake Dyason who took it upon himself to make Malachi sustainable by finding sponsors and donors. Read about his mission here.


In her own words:

“The social workers warn you not to get attached but you can’t do this work without love. It is very hard but very rewarding.”


Audrey says she was brought up to serve. She grew up in a home where her own mother took children in and she recalls preparing gifts and food during Christmas time for those in need.


Despite the difficulties of balancing their good deeds with their limited finances, Audrey doesn’t think about the challenges. “I have always believed that if you do good, you’ll be provided for.”


I have always believed that if you do good, you’ll be provided for.


“We are just an ordinary family who stepped out of our comfort zone just a little bit to lend a helping hand to children that need our support. We don’t do this for money or glory, we just do it because we want to.”


Read about what they do here.

Donation details here.


Blake Dyason

South African’s making South Africa great every day - Blake Dyason

Name: Blake Dyason

Age: 29

What he does: Blake has worked for what he calls “an amazing niche publishing house” COSA Media in Cape Town for the past 8 years but he is so much more than his day job. Taking on countless charity initiatives over the past few years including the Unogwaja Challenge (in which he single handily raised over R100K for Pink Drive). He has become an ambassador for Malachi, committing himself to making Malachi sustainable by finding sponsors and donors. so that Audrey can focus on giving the kids a chance.  He also created a LITTER FREE movement, started a Sustainable cycling in Africa project and most recently in 2015 launched the LOVE OUR TRAILS movement.


How it improves South Africa:


He started LITTER FREE by just being embarrassed about how much litter he came across while running. “As an avid runner I found myself frustrated with the behaviour of runners and race organisers just throwing empty plastic sachets on the ground. I know most races clean up after, but we are creating a culture of littering and expecting people to clean up after us. The one thing I love most about running and sport is the unity, support and drive of the community that connects millions of South Africans and people around the world.”


Over the past 2 years he has run races with a rubbish bag picking up litter often missing the race cut-off. He believes in leading by example and educating runners and spectators about the impact of litter and our responsibility. He is now working with a number of running clubs and race organisers around the country with plans to make races green and with the hope that runners will take this message to their families and communities.  “We have one earth, let’s love it.”


We have one earth, let’s love it.


He took his LITTER FREE movement further by launching LOVE OUR TRAILS last year. LOVE OUR TRAILS is an international movement creating awareness and educating trail uses about caring for our trails. “There is no better place to train, get fit, enjoy alone time or quality time with loved ones. With outdoor activities becoming more popular, the need to respect and protect our trails grows.”


“I started Love our Trails in 2015 when I took my close friend from Johannesburg on my favourite hike up Kloof Corner on Table Mountain. It was amazing to see people out and exploring, but my heart broke as we passed the big rock covered in graffiti and the trail scattered with litter. I was embarrassed. I sent mails to anyone I could to see what is being done with very little luck. Suddenly I woke up in the middle of the night, I knew that I had to step up and be the change I wanted to see. I quickly started a Facebook event inviting my trail friends to join me for a hike to clean Platteklip and before I knew it I was bombarded with support and interest. People want to help and the message is growing.”


In his own words:

“I truly believe each and every one of us have the ability to make the world a better place and I have an uncontrollable urge to do this. No longer can we point a finger at government or businesses or our leaders for change. We need to ask ourselves what am I doing for my community?”


Find out more about LOVE OUR TRAILS and get involved here.


In the introduction of the 2015 short film for Unogwaja, John McInroy makes a speech that’s so powerful, I dare not retype it. Do yourself a favour and spend a very short 11 minutes of your life watching this. And if you don’t have 11 minutes just watch the first two and a half for inspiration to fuel you through and beyond today.


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