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Pain Can Fuel Your Passion…and Your Giving – A Mandela Month Story

As Mandela Day is celebrated across the world, in honour of a man who spent 27 years in prison yet dedicated the last years of his life to nurturing and encouraging a life of giving to others.

Motlatsi Mokoena says the life of former President Nelson Mandela is one that reflects his own “journey from pain to passion and ultimately, a life of giving”. From an early age, he learned to accept loss, pain and poverty as a way of life and had neither a frame of reference nor the audacity to dream of being more.

“Growing up, we didn’t have much. And when my parents got divorced, we had even less. We survived on meals that were either hand-outs or leftovers from neighbours, and honestly, most days, my siblings and I didn’t know what it meant to enjoy a lunch skaftin at school,” offers Motlatsi.

Yet in those dire circumstances, his mother who suffered epilepsy, was a source of relentless strength and hope to him and his four siblings. Motlatsi recalls how he marveled at his mother’s ability to “keep it together” in “with an incredible grace, while instilling in us, a sense of being loved”.

It’s the reason Motlatsi used his very first pay-cheque to replace the crates that were found on the other side of their front door – he bought “a proper couch so my mother wouldn’t ever have to feel embarrassed about having people over at our house”. The delivery of the couch to their home was a bittersweet and short-lived happy moment as Motlatsi’s mother passed away on the same day after suffering yet another epileptic fit.

“I didn’t know what it meant to live without worrying about what my family would eat or whether I’d be warm in winter. Growing up without a father, I didn’t know what it would take from me to be a man or to be a father one day. The financial lack and losses in my life, and the volatile home I’d grown up in, brought with it, a mountain of burdens which I carried with me, well into my adulthood.”

That was until Motlatsi met Beauty, a colleague, an older woman, at his new workplace in his first job. Beauty was consistent in her encouragement of him, telling him that she saw a greatness in him, and slowly Motlatsi started to shift the way he saw himself. He started to allow himself to dream of being more and indulged his curiosity about the faith Beauty spoke of. “She was my spiritual mother, a woman who had very little material things to offer, but she changed my life by believing in me. I knew that if this one woman could change my life, just by giving of herself to me, I knew I could change the lives of others,” he says,

Today Motlatsi is a team manager at MiWay by day, and a community activist by night. And of course, on weekends too! With outreach programmes that stretch from communities in Vosloorus, to those in Tembisa and Kaalfontein, Motlatsi has rallied a team of people around him who raise funds to feed the oft-forgotten elderly, and less privileged children in some of Gauteng’s most impoverished townships. His every spare moment, all year round, is dedicated to bringing hope and healing to those in need.

“It was the ubuntu of our neighbours, the giving spirit of people like Beauty that showed me that it’s possible for pain to fuel your passion. Giving to others, even when you feel like you have nothing to give, it heals you. So, give. Not just on Mandela Day, give. It can have a transformative impact on the life of the next person, just look at me.”

Men and women like Motlatsi are the protagonists of MiWay's Extraordinary Givers campaign, a year-round initiative which was launched ahead of Mandela Month. The campaign seeks to offer MiWay employees the opportunity to participate in its overarching people-first CSI philosophy - MiWay employees are invited to nominate a charity or organisation for support – financial and/or in kind – from MiWay.

MiWay is a licensed non-life insurer and Financial Services Provider (FSP 33970).


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