Our work with The Winnie Mabaso Foundation

You don't need a wealth of resources to help people, often the biggest differences are made when one person displays a random act of kindness. At Tropic we can’t think of a more perfect example than Winnie Mabaso and the legacy she’s created through the Winnie Mabaso Foundation.

The story of The Winnie Mabaso Foundation started when Winnie Mabaso herself, a retired auxiliary nurse, offered soup to a few of the neighbourhood children twice a day. The group was originally called Zenzele – a Zulu word that means do it yourself. She stood at her garden gate to serve children, creating a line of people waiting for soup that stretched all the way down the street.


Soon enough, she was finding it too much to handle on her own, so she asked neighbours to help her. Inspired by the difference Winnie was making, they joined her efforts. It wasn’t long before she had 20 volunteers, not only cooking for children three times a day, but also visiting and feeding sick neighbours, caring for them in any way they could. After two years, the volunteer group had grown to 50.

When Lisa Ashton MBE – a BBC documentary maker at the time – first visited South Africa in 2004 while making a programme, one of her interviewees was Winnie Mabaso. Touched and inspired by Winnie’s kindness to give back, Lisa returned to the UK and began fundraising for Winnie's first orphanage. 

Sadly, just a few months later, after enough money was raised for the children's new home, Winnie passed away very suddenly. At her funeral, which Lisa attended, all the children from the orphanage stood hand in hand around her coffin. It was at that moment that Lisa decided to continue Winnie's kindness and philanthropy in her memory, and thus The Winnie Mabaso Foundation was born. For nine years, Lisa juggled her job at the BBC with running the Foundation until, in 2013, she handed in her notice to run the charity full-time.

Since starting the Winnie Mabaso Foundation in 2004, Lisa and her team have launched incredible projects to support women and children. The projects include Ilamula House (Zulu for lemon, on account of the beautiful lemon tree in the front garden), a home for abused, abandoned and orphaned girls, a preschool for underprivileged children, a library, a sewing school, a gardening project, a granny club and a feeding station.

In early 2017, one of our Tropic Ambassadors got in touch with us about supporting the foundation. We agreed that it aligned perfectly with Tropic's values around empowering people, and we’re so proud to have become part of their story.

Fast forward to today and the changes have been immeasurable. Since partnering with The Winnie Mabaso Foundation – with thanks to the incredible generosity of our Ambassadors at our Glambassadors events – we’ve raised over £250,000. The entirety of these proceeds have gone directly to the incredible causes that the foundation supports.

The money raised has funded a new roof and solar panels for the Ilamula House orphanage, so they’re no longer subjected to the battering storms and the constant power outages of South Africa. It has also paid for the grocery bill for the orphanage for an entire year and an outdoor classroom.

"I cannot thank our Tropic family enough. I can't even begin to tell you the difference this will make to us. No more load-shedding and going without electricity for days at a time – we can harness all that wonderful South African sunshine to our advantage. Dreams do come true!"

- Lisa Ashton, Founder and CEO of The Winnie Mabaso Foundation, on our latest donation in September 2020.  

This money raised has paid for experiences that you and I may take for granted. Last year, the granny club were treated to a once in a lifetime holiday and felt the soothing breath of the ocean for the first time in their lives.

Over the past three years, our Ambassadors have donated over 1,500 packets of fruit and vegetable seeds, an entire van’s worth of children’s clothes, as well as over 2,000 pairs of underwear and 4,000 pairs of socks.

Not too long ago the Tropic team and 200 of our Ambassadors were honoured to meet the children of Ilamula House, the grannies and of course, Lisa. Seeing firsthand how our donations had generated incredible change in so many lives, showed just how crucial that random act of kindness Winnie Mabaso made all those years ago really was.

Just as Winnie's mission inspired others, we've seen that doing good encourages others to do the same. Separate from our Glambassador fundraising events, Ambassadors have drawn on the financial freedom they have from being part of the Tropic family to personally support The Winnie Mabaso Foundation. From sponsoring the girls and grannies, to completely funding the construction and materials of an entire home for a family in need, they've shown dedication and generosity towards the work the foundation undertakes.

The Winnie Mabaso Foundation shows us time and time again how our choices can help change the world. Maybe, rather than success being the key to happiness, happiness could be the key to success, and true happiness comes from giving. Sometimes it’s the little things we do that have a huge impact, when a collection of small acts help to generate change for generations to come. 

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