I am passionate about giving back – not necessarily sharing money and possessions, but sharing knowledge, and changing lives.”
For Lonwabo Damane, final-year BCom Accounting student at the University of the Western Cape (UWC), giving back has also meant receiving. Not only receiving the joy of changing lives with Today 4 Tomorrow (T4T), the non-profit he founded while still studying, but also the recognition of his fellow students and his University at the 2018 Student Development and Support (SDS) Student Achievement Awards, where he took home the Social Responsibility Award, the Top Male Achiever Award, and the Overall Top Achiever Award.
The SDS Awards are a chance to honour those students who truly live the SDS motto: “Creating your future”. Lonwabo is certainly doing that – and creating others’ futures in the process.
The last born of three, and the first of his immediate family to go to university, Lonwabo was born and bred in the small town of Umtata in the Eastern Cape, and raised by an unemployed grandmother. He later moved to Port Elizabeth to live with his uncle during his high school years – and that is when he fell in love with the concepts of leadership and social impact.
When he arrived at UWC, that love bloomed into Today 4 Tomorrow, a registered (REF: 182-623) and youth led Non-Profit Organisation that aims to give back to the surrounding communities by stressing the importance of wise career choices, and education in general. T4T offers student-led tutoring and mentoring sessions for school learners, career guidance, as well as a social wellness component.
In 2018 alone, Today 4 Tomorrow:
- Raised over 100 brand new scientific calculators in 48 hours for UWC’s 2nd Annual Calculator Drive;
- Was interviewed on Metro FM, Smile FM, Cape Talk and News24-City Vision;
- Embarked on a Toiletry Drive that saw T4T issue toiletry packs to all their learners;
- Organised numerous high-quality career guidance sessions for learners; and,
- Was certified as a Public Benefit Organisation by SARS.
And that’s just for starters.
Here’s what Lonwabo has to say about studying, working, and trying to make the world a better place at the same time.
What was the idea behind Today 4 Tomorrow?
I started T4T in order to fill a gap I had spotted between University students and high school learners. It was through the realisation of how much difference we can make as university students, without blaming any third party for the lack of resources in township schools. Most importantly, it was to teach my peers that there are many ways one can give back, and those do not necessarily mean sharing monetary possessions. Also sharing knowledge alone is more than enough.
From a tender age, I’ve been passionate about economic issues, business and numbers. BCom Accounting has a great way of summing these up and enabling the useful application of numbers in a business environment.
What inspires you?
For me, seeing people around me smile because of my actions makes me want to become a better person every single day. So I enjoy uplifting people – probably because I was raised in a small family with very little financial means (government grant), but yet so much love and warmth.
What does success mean to you?
I sum up my definition of success this way: finding other young Lonwabos, grooming them, funding them and helping them become their unique successful versions of my example. Success to me is the point where you are able to produce another success story (which can in turn hopefully produce another success story).
What do you do in your spare time?
Spare time? What’s that? (Laughs) My friends always ask how I cope running an online store, an NPO, and doing BCom Accounting final year. When I’m not studying, I am busy either with my business or contemplating the next move for the organisation. But I sometimes play tennis with friends just to relax my mind, and when possible I get away from campus to forget about studies for a while.
You’re big on providing mentorship and helping people achieve their dreams – but do you have any mentors or role models yourself?
I look up to people who strive against all odds, rise to greatness in their respective fields, and do not forget to give back whilst at it.
My role model would be my grandmother, for her beautiful character and sincere heart. She is my greatest reason for pushing through, and the reason I keep on moving no matter how difficult it becomes.
What are your dreams? Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
My dream is to lead a happy and financially comfortable life – and to help others to lead one as well. In 10 years’ time I see myself as an ethical business leader using my connections, businesses and network at large to affect change in communities. And I see T4T as a huge organisation led by students and constantly growing to address economic issues and promote academic excellence.