MAMAS Alliance is a country-wide network of 33 reputable and autonomous grassroots organisations, which provide structural and practical daily care to the most vulnerable members of society, with a focus on children and youth. As Corporate Social Investment Consultant and fundraiser for the alliance, Ruth Butcher, 34, believes that helping others gives her life purpose.
MAMAS Alliance takes its work seriously; its stated goal is to save vulnerable children and youth across South Africa from a hopeless future by providing them with a healthy, safe and stimulating environment in which to develop. Ruth joined MAMAS Alliance in October 2016. Her focus areas include building and maintaining relationships with funders who have a keen interest in the upliftment of children and youth in South Africa, expanding the network of associated NGOs, and strengthening collaborative efforts between all parties.
According to Ruth, all the NGOs of the MAMAS Alliance are run independently by ‘Mamas’ (and some ‘Papas’) from within the community in which they’re situated. Each NGO receives annual funding from the MAMAS Alliance head office in the Netherlands, Kinderfonds MAMAS (KFM), and also enjoys the benefit of additional funding sourced by the South African MAMAS Alliance CSI Agency. The operational costs of the CSI Agency are covered by KFM, so that neither individual funders nor the NGOs are burdened with this responsibility.
Ruth describes her job as rewarding, yet not without its challenges.
‘It’s difficult to separate emotion from the profession, because you are constantly dealing with the forgotten and discarded members of society,’ she says.
She adds that one of the lessons she has learned is to focus on long-term goals and outcomes and keep perspective when making decisions about funding. ‘It’s important to decide what’s ultimately best for the person, family and/or community, rather than making decisions based on what makes a person feel good in that moment.’
Focussing on quality rather than quantity can be strenuous.
‘Millions of South Africans are in dire need, and it’s not possible to help everyone, even though we would love to. In addition, we are dealing with individuals, who each have their own story and experiences. It’s important to treat people as individuals, not as numbers.’
Although Ruth faces the harsh reality of trying to narrow the gap in inequality, she’s upbeat.
‘Only the people who think they can change the world ever have a chance of actually doing it, because they are crazy enough to try,’ she says. ‘I stay hopeful and keep believing that good things are possible and are happening, despite all the terrible things we are constantly exposed to. It’s important to focus on sharing more good news, instead of focusing on bad news all the time!’
Ruth is proud to say that every NGO in MAMAS Alliance has profoundly impacted on the lives of thousands of children and youth and continues to do so on a daily basis.
‘We as MAMAS Alliance believe that every child who enters our programme is a long-term, 15–20-year commitment. Each NGO aims to walk the path with each child in the programme, in the hope they can still become a happy and productive member of society in adulthood and escape the prison of poverty.’
Ruth, who lives with her partner, two dogs and three cats, says it’s important to keep your own cup full, so that you are better able to serve others. To recharge her batteries, she enjoys spending quality time with friends and family. She exercises regularly, unwinds with a good book and invests in self-development opportunities.
‘Self-awareness is vital, because you’ll never be able to create change in the world if you don’t start by changing yourself. I continually push myself to excel according to my abilities, and I focus on being the best version of myself each day.’