Wesley Seale pays tribute to Dr Imtiaz Sooliman and his organisation, Gift of the Givers, who celebrates its 29th birthday this weekend.
"Many of us, once we get to the high life, we get our degrees, we make progress, many of us forget where we came from.
We forget the struggle of the pensioner, old lady, the granny who took care of seven [or] eight children, who gave up her pension money so that you could be here to study or go to school."
These were the striking words of Dr Imtiaz Sooliman, founder of Gift of the Givers when he was awarded the Chancellor's Medal by one of South Africa's universities in 2017.
"We get caught up in the materialistic life, we forget our values, we forget our systems and it is only about chasing material values and we forget all the principles and values.
All the education, all the technology and all the learning in the world is useless if we lose our values, our social virtue and selfless service, especially to parents, kith and kin, neighbours and communities where we come from."
A number of these salutatory videos of Dr Sooliman and Gift of the Givers have been trending on social media recently.
Faced with a pandemic of global proportions, South Africans across the spectrum have paid tribute to the organisation, Gift of the Givers, through posts and articles.
So strong have sentiments been towards Dr Sooliman that a campaign has even been started to make him president of the country.
But as with Dr Sooliman's address to students at their graduation ceremony, where he received the Chancellor's Award, he and his organisation are rather about values and principles.
In fact, he has come out and re-affirmed that you do not need to be president to live by principles and values.
You do not even need to run for public office in order to make miracles happen.
For Imtiaz Sooliman and Gift of Givers, making miracles happen is about the spiritual.
"I am not interested in politics; I have a spiritual responsibility," he is recently quoted as saying.
Life is about re-enforcing principles and values, going back and serving one's community and abandoning the need for materialistic lifestyle, according to this proud son of South Africa.
The campaign "Sooliman for President" has undoubtedly come in the light of South Africans being faced with those in public office seeking exactly that materialistic lifestyle that Dr Sooliman condemns, where want of power and corruption has been the order of the day. This Contrasts starkly with this organisation, Gift of the Givers, which just simply serves.
It's an organisation, headed by a spiritual man, who just gets things done and who ensures that lives are touched by upliftment.
It is unnecessary to point the reader to the litany of good work that Dr Sooliman and Gift of the Givers have done over the last nearly three decades.
South Africans are all too aware of the work of this individual and organisation that is not pursued for personal gain but the improvement of humanity.
An international organisation, Gift of the Givers has responded to the crisis in Lebanon, the Philippines, Mozambique, Pakistan and some other 38 countries.
Their work spans disaster responses, hunger alleviation, water provision, healthcare, education and social upliftment.
In addition to their tremendous work done in the face of Covid-19, for example, setting up a 120-bed Covid-19 facility at Bisho Hospital, Gift of the Givers was also at the forefront of responding to the humanitarian crisis in the aftermath of the unrest and protests that plagued Gauteng and KawZulu-Natal recently.
Food and medical supplies as well as business support was given to affected communities.
This weekend Gift of the Givers celebrates its 29th birthday.
Inspired by the words of Sufi Sheikh Muhammed Saffer Effendi al Jerrahi, Dr Imitiaz Sooliman established this organisation which has exemplified the light among the darkness and depression found in South African society.
Gift of the Givers reminds us that no matter the horrendous challenges our communities face, people still have the inherent ability to do good.
No matter what our persuasion, on this the birthday of Gift of Givers, the words of that Turkish sheikh should speak to each one of us, as South Africans:
"My son, you will form an organisation.
The name will be Waqful Waqifin, and that name is translated into 'Gift of the Givers'.
You will serve all people of all races, of all religions, of all colours, of all classes, of all political affiliations and of any geographical location.
You will serve them unconditionally."
Happy birthday to our miracle workers!
- Dr Wesley Seale has taught South African politics and has a PhD in International Relations.
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