By Charndré Emma Kippie
Managing Director at MAMAS Alliance, Magali Anne Malherbe, has been working to uplift children across South Africa for almost 25 years. Magali has been at the heart of the MAMAS Alliance for more than 3 years, working to serve South African’s most vulnerable children to the best of her ability. Magali specialises in project management and fundraising, with In-depth knowledge of the issues affecting rural orphaned and vulnerable children in South Africa. Previously, she received the Knight in the Order of Merit of the French Republic (2020), and was the winner of the prize for the French Living Overseas, in 2014, for her humanitarian work.
For Magali, the key to a successful CSI programme is the quality of projects and programmes that are available. MAMAS Alliance offers over 400 opportunities for social investment. These opportunities stretch across various focus areas including skills development, food security, education, children and people with disabilities, gender-based violence and women empowerment, OVC programmes, health, sport and recreation and income generation.
We chat with Magali Malherbe on how she hopes to continue to make a difference in the lives of young children in South Africa.
What are your main career objectives? How do you hope to make a difference?
My main career objective is to offer my professional skills and creativity to the benefit of the most vulnerable in society, especially children. At MAMAS Alliance, I am able to make a difference to more than 60 000 vulnerable children across South Africa. And I love the more than 2000 MAMAS and PAPAS with whom we work, learning and growing alongside them, fighting together to make the plight of our children heard.
Please could you tell us a bit about your background – how did you get to this point?
I was born in France and raised in the Alps area. At the age of 20, I came to South Africa for voluntary humanitarian work and met my South African husband. We now have 3 bi-national kids. I have been granted South African citizenship but due to COVID, I am still eagerly waiting for the official ceremony to take place. I have an Honours Degree in Social Policies and a Master’s Degree in Development Studies. At the age of 24, I created a Non-Profit Organisation called Children of the Dawn that supports orphaned and vulnerable children in rural areas across South Africa.
Today, Children of the Dawn care for more than 1200 children and teenagers, including 55 tertiary students all coming from within the ranks. Children of the Dawn is a MAMAS Alliance member. Therefore, in 2018, I was offered the position of Managing Director, which gave a unique opportunity to be of support and counsel to thousands of MAMAS.
What excites you the most about the work that you do?
Every day, we make a change in the lives of our beneficiaries and we impact South Africa’s trajectory for the best. Without care workers in the poorest communities, South Africa would be hopeless. This work is a vocation, a calling, a relentless movement to fix, heal, improve and mentor!
I am particularly proud of our CSI Unit that provides amazing services to both corporates and NGOs, linking them at no cost to create more impact on the ground.
What life mantra/inspirational quote do you live by?
One quote that I live by is: ‘Hope never dies.’
What 3 tips do you have when it comes to implementing solutions in your field?
- Listen to the people who live in poor communities. They may not have the financial means but they definitely have the solutions within them.
- Change is a slow process. Be patient. You achieve nothing durable in a few months.
- Lack of love and care is utterly destructive, and may, in some situations, be impossible to repair.
Have you read any books or listened to any podcasts that have inspired you and your career thus far?
The Plague by Albert Camus remains the best book I have ever read. It tells the story of the Algerian town of Oran which is engulfed by the deadly epidemic. For me, the main message of the book is that in the face of the absurdity of suffering and poverty, the only way to retain one’s humanity is to act. And this is one I have tried to do at my level: refuse to accept the fatality of statistics, and create a change in the playing ground, where new statistics can arise.
In his book Hope Dies Last: Making a Difference in an Indifferent World, the historian Studs Terkel shows that hope is born of activism, engagement and a stubborn determination to improve the world. I totally subscribe to this vision of hope and this has been driving my career since its beginning.
I am also proud of the stories contained in the MAMAS Alliance PowerGirls’s programme. They follow the teenage years of three young South African vulnerable girls: Imani, Take and Nombeko. The stories are simple, yet a powerful reminder of our own inner beauty and depth. The author is Naseera Noor-Mahomed, and she has done a brilliant job that is creating journeys of life to which close to 2200 girls currently identify.
What is your ‘why’ i.e. Bottom line?
There is no personal happiness and content without social justice, as we do not live in isolation. I keep motivated by seeing the growth and opportunities afforded to our beneficiaries, because of the work we do.
Outside of work, are you involved in any extracurricular activities and/or community outreach projects?
I love walking and hiking. I also love running. It provides a space to mentally debrief and find new creative ideas. I like reading and doing complicated puzzles when on holidays. I also love travelling, especially out of the beaten track… My South African friends often remark that I know the geography of the country much better than they do.
Who or what inspires you on a daily basis?
The news inspires me – mostly to fight when I hear about unjust social situations. My biological children are also huge inspirations for me, for their love of life and incredible knowledge. Discussions among friends or colleagues also really motivate me, showing other ways to consider matters.
What advice do you have for Future generations who aspire to work in your industry.
You have to be ready to go beyond the call of duty and don’t wait to be asked to do it. If you are not passionate, social and development work is not for you, as we often witness or are involved in very dehumanising or horrible life situations. Take initiative; propose solutions; social change is fluid and needs constant tweaking and readjustment.
*Interested in discovering more inspiring stores about Top Women? Check out the 16th edition of the Standard Bank Top Women Leaders publication on Issuu – Digital Publishing Platform – here.