Siya and Rachel Kolisi
The Kolisi Foundation
About Siya and Rachel Kolisi
Siya Kolisi, known as the People’s Captain, cofounded The Kolisi Foundation in March 2020. As the country faced the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, Siya and Rachel Kolisi recognized the threat this crisis posed to many in South Africa’s most vulnerable communities. They could not stand by and do nothing and so launched The Kolisi Foundation to respond to these challenges.
Siya Kolisi comes from humble beginnings and is a hero to many. In 2018, he made history as the first black test player to be appointed captain of the South African Springbok rugby team, in its 129 year history. South Africa was unified in pride when, in November 2019, Siya led his team to Rugby World Cup victory, returning South Africa to the top of the world rankings for the first time in 10 years. Siya dedicated the World Cup victory to all South Africans, saying “(We) can achieve anything when we work together as one”.
The impact The Kolisi Foundation has had in the few short months since its inception, is testament to that motto. The Foundation has provided sustainable food parcels to more than 25,000 families and provided hygiene products to front-line health workers nationally, in partnership with The Nelson Mandela Foundation.
Today Siya stands not only as a Rugby World Cup champion, but his list of accolades includes BBC ‘Sports Star of the Year’ nominee, the 2019 Peace and Sports Awards Champion of the Year, and one of New African’s ‘Most Influential Africans’.
In July 2020, Siya was announced as a UN Global Advocate for the Spotlight Initiative. This is a global partnership between the United Nations and the European Union, to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls by 2030. Siya lends his time and influence to this critical cause, calling on men and boys to take responsibility and to become part of the solution to ending violence against women and girls globally.
Siya lives in Cape Town with his wife, Rachel, and their four children. When on the field he wears the iconic number 6 Springbok jersey, worn by South Africa’s first black president, Mr Nelson Mandela, in 1995. Off the field, he seeks to embody Madiba’s vision and philosophy and is committed to Remembering the One, One by One.
Rachel Kolisi is the co-founder of The Kolisi Foundation which was established in March 2020 with a vision to change the narrative of inequality for people in vulnerable and under-resourced communities in South Africa. The Kolisi Foundation is an expression of Siya and Rachel Kolisi’s commitment to always “Remember the One: One by One.”
Her dedication to The Kolisi Foundation is part of her long-standing passion to serve individuals and communities across the country. From as early as 1990, Rachel has been involved in charitable and community development projects which have brought about transformation for many different communities. She believes that The Kolisi Foundation is a vehicle through which many lives can be impacted on a much greater scale.
Rachel was born in Mafikeng, and raised in Grahamstown, a small town in the Eastern Cape, South Africa. She attended Victoria Girls’ High School and matriculated in 2008. She worked five jobs simultaneously in order to put herself through tertiary studies, graduating with a degree in Events Management at the Stellenbosch Hotel School. After completing her studies, Rachel worked as a marketing and events coordinator at a large marketing company in Cape Town.
Rachel is also passionate about empowering and encouraging women to be strong in who and where they are now.
During her pregnancy with their firstborn -Nicholas - Siya was reunited with his younger siblings after 7 years of being apart. Since December 2014, they have been part of the Kolisi household. Rachel, a mother to four children, is the heart of the house and the integral hub through which all activity passes.
Rugby star Siya Kolisi and Rachel Kolisi join Alberto Lidji to share their inspiring philanthropy journey and ambition to change narratives of inequality in South Africa through the Kolisi Foundation
Siya came from a challenging and humble background and, in 2018, became the first Black test player appointed Captain of the Springboks — South Africa’s national rugby team. In 2019, Siya led his team to Rugby World Cup victory.
Rachel brings a long-standing passion to serve individuals and communities across South Africa. From as early as 1990, Rachel has been involved in charitable and community development projects which have brought about transformation for many different communities.
Siya and Rachel co-founded the Kolisi Foundation exactly a year ago and are already making a huge impact in South Africa, tackling gender based violence, alleviating the hardships caused by COVID-19 and convening diverse stakeholders.
The Foundation has provided sustainable food parcels to more than 25,000 families and provided hygiene products to front-line health workers nationally, in partnership with The Nelson Mandela Foundation.
In this candid and warm conversation, both Siya and Rachel speak with great passion and articulate the nature of their work very clearly. We learn from both of them about the contexts that shaped their thinking, the challenging realities they’ve witnessed and how they’re leveraging their high-profile voices to convene partners, change attitudes and make a difference.
This is a transcript of the conversation between Alberto Lidji, host of The Do One Better! Podcast, and Siya and Rachel Kolisi.
Alberto Lidji: Siya and Rachel, a big heartfelt welcome onto he Do One Better! Podcast.
Rachel Kolisi: Thank you so much for having us. We are so excited to be chatting with you today.
Alberto Lidji: It is great. Well, I guess why don't we start by finding out a little bit about the Kolisi Foundation. What's it all about?
Rachel Kolisi: Well, after the winning of the World Cup, we knew that we wanted to do something great in South Africa and we kind of played with the idea of launching a foundation. But everything just got a bit crazy after the World Cup. And then, of course, we got back and had a lot of awards ceremonies and different things that we went to all around the world. And then, of course, COVID hit early March , really hit South Africa. And then we just realized, we are so blessed in that we have so many amazing partnerships and we wanted to make use of those partnerships and really make an impact during the COVID season in South Africa. So we launched the foundation with no logo, no website, no team, no finances but just in faith that people would really believe in what we wanted to achieve, which is really just helping South Africans throughout the season. I mean, honestly, it is unbelievable what we have managed to achieve and do in such a short amount of time. But it really is a testament to the team that we have had that has volunteered, started off as volunteers. And just for the heart that everyone shares in really wanting to do good work in South Africa.
Alberto Lidji: And the foundation is coming up to its first birthday. Right? It is really new, you just started it last year.
Rachel Kolisi: That's right. So we actually had a call this week and we just realized we are coming up on our first birthday. And nobody can believe it.
Alberto Lidji: And you picked a challenging time to launch this, I think. Seldom has there been a time where there's so much need with this whole pandemic ravaging the whole world. And I know in South Africa it is not a pretty picture.
Rachel Kolisi: Absolutely. And it is again the people who really just poured in, to what we wanted to achieve and without our donors, without our partners, without the people that we have working for the foundation. None of this would have been possible. I actually have to mention, just before the lockdown though, Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal came to play. And Bill Gates and Trevor Noah came to play a tennis game in South Africa. And we had the incredible honor of actually having dinner with Bill and Rafa and Roger and kind of spent so much time. We had no idea we would be launching a foundation within two months from meeting them, but spent so much time talking with their foundation teams that, what they do and how they fundraise and how they create partnerships without actually realising we'd be doing exactly that two months further on.
Alberto Lidji: Sure. They must have been both inspirational and also really invaluable sources of information as you embark on this philanthropic journey.
Rachel Kolisi: Absolutely. And one thing, if I can be so bold as to say they all married well. But also just incredible…incredible... human beings. We have had the privilege of meeting a lot of different people, but all of their characters are something that I think they can all be very proud of and something that really just precedes them as human beings is just their character and how they treat people. And, what they're doing in the world and the fact that they all use their influence to do good, was so inspiring for us and just so amazing.
Alberto Lidji: And Siya, in the world of sports and within the Springboks, but just in general, how do you tackle the world of philanthropy? I guess, in the space of sports?
Siya Kolisi: I think a lot of… There's a couple of my teammates who’ve been doing stuff, and I think a whole lot of them do stuff silently. They don't put it on social media. But, I have seen a lot of change in a lot of people, especially in times like these. I think philanthropy goes hand-in-hand with what we do in sport, because without the people we can't do what we love and I think for us in terms of this is the time that we can stand up with the platform that we have and the sponsors and the support that we have — I think we can do so much to change things around, not only in philanthropy and also in being an activist, also standing up for things that you believe in. Our voices are so strong and so heavy. They carry a lot of weight. And I think we take that for granted a lot of the time. And we just think, we are just sportsmen. We actually are far more than enough. As you can see what the American sportspeople have been doing. They use their voices very wisely, and they've got like LeBron James I look up to as well. With the work that he does out of the field and what he does on the court as well. And how he’s using his voice for justice for people and for equality.
Alberto Lidji: Fascinating, fascinating. And I guess also both of you have the ability to convene really interesting stakeholders to drive forward change because of your standing in South Africa and indeed, Siya, within the global sports world. If you guys say something, if you try to call attention to a specific issue, people will listen.
Siya Kolisi: I think a lot of people with a lot of stature and a little bit of voice and everything... The thing is, if you don't believe in it and you don't put… because we, myself and Rachel, we were actually on the ground during lockdown. We went because we have seen how other foundations work and we wanna be different. Myself and Rachel are never getting a salary from the foundation. It is just something that we wanna make sure that is done, we wanna be there for people. We wanna make sure that, we said at the beginning, we want to tackle all the challenges that I faced as a kid. And there are so many. And we wanna make sure the money that comes in, it goes to the people that deserve to. And that is why we drove 16,000km around South Africa during COVID-19 in the space of three months, I think. We drove ourselves, we delivered to make sure the people had the food, and it hurt us a lot emotionally to see how people are living and how far behind our country is and how much hasn’t been done. I think it’s over 20 years of people, you know, are supposed to be getting better opportunities, but looking at our country so much that needs to be done. And no matter how big or small, each person has to play the part because we can’t… And you know the government has to do a lot of work, but we can't rely on the government that is facing a whole lot of other stuff. So we as ordinary people have to use our platform, have to use whatever we have. And it has been inspiring to see people donating 50 Rand. They think it is nothing. But the 50 Rand can sometimes feed someone for a week, you know, with some of the people that we work with. So we have encouraged and we have been grateful to every single person that's been supporting the foundation.
Alberto Lidji: How do you decide? I mean, there's so many promises COVID-19, there’s poverty, there’s gender based violence. And I know your foundation tackles a lot of these issues in different ways. How do you decide where to start and what to focus on? Must be very difficult.
Siya Kolisi: Well, we didn't have a choice. We had to start with COVID-19 because that was the urgent need at the time. So we started with that. And so as we started with it, we help the frontline workers with PPE, with masks and some gloves and stuff that we could get. And obviously using our… at the time, we had to start… we had a friend of ours who donated to the foundation and then we started using our personal sponsors, Adidas and Red Bull. They jumped on board. And the most important thing was collaborating with other foundations. So they also added what they had, and then we started working from the first project we did, we worked with another foundation, which is pretty amazing. And people were keen to work with us, with no background or no history of working in this environment. People took us in this, and started supporting us, and then after we helped with PPE. Then the doctors told us, it is OK. They fine with the equipment… they need now for us to encourage people to stay at home. And I know coming from the township, you control 100% to stay at home. Because when I grew up, I had to go to my neighbors to ask for a slice of bread or a cup of mini meal or rice. So that was the first thing we did when we started donating food. We were going community to community, but we started with my hometown and then we went on doing food relief for people. And we went for a three month period and that's what we started doing. And then we started working on gender based violence as well, because that's something that is personal for me, because my mom and my aunt were affected by it. So I have seen it as a kid and a lot of my friends were affected by it. And it is something that I saw regularly in the community. We see it so many times that it becomes normal. And I knew when I was younger, hearing your mom scream like that or your aunt. You know, this is not right. But you see it so much. But fortunately, when I was 12 years old, I got a scholarship and I was taken away from the environment. So I started seeing how people should treat… how a woman should be treated. What is the right way to treat women. But the problem is my friends stayed behind. So that’s all they saw. So I'm trying to change that so the future generations don't face the same things as we faced when we were younger.
Alberto Lidji: Would both of you say that your upbringing, the context of your youth played a role in nudging you into this journey to get involved with philanthropy, to try to improve the world around you?
Rachel Kolisi: Yeah, I think definitely. My upbringing looks very different to what Siya’s upbringing looked like. But it still wasn't easy. And there are a lot of things that I experienced that I never want another person in South Africa to kind of experience. But it did look different to what Siya's struggles were. But I think for me, one thing that I always reminded myself of is no matter how tough things get, there's always somebody out there who's dealing with something harder and something worse. But they're dealing with it. They're managing. So, I think, I just feel like philanthropy is almost engraved in people. Like, I feel like you’re just born with a gift to do more than make money and make sure your kids can go to good schools and study to pay off your house and car. I think the people are just giving gifts to give back. And, there's been times that I'm like, “Please, I just don't want to see it,” like, I don't want to notice the person on the street. I don't want to notice the woman walking with a baby in the night. I don’t want to notice those things. Can also be blinded like a lot of other people. And you just can't unsee and you just can't shut your eyes to those kinds of things. I am so honored to be able to do the work that we do and at the capacity that we are able to do it at and just that people are selling into a vision that we kind of only established while we were on the road because we didn't really know what we wanted to do. But seeing all the different needs in rural communities, especially like talking about not having water, forget about food, just not having proper sanitation and water available to them. And those are the things that are outside of COVID. Those are realities for people already. So we were able to see a lot and in doing so kind of create our vision & mission about what we wanted to do. But, of course, with the work we are doing with gender based violence, those numbers, you know, people not losing jobs and not being able to feed their families was terrible. But gender based violence is a pandemic of its own in South Africa. And our numbers are horrendous outside of COVID. And those numbers were almost doubled when lockdown happened in South Africa because women are stuck now at home with these abusive men. And also lockdown in the communities looked very different to lockdown in the suburbs. They weren't even able to go out of their house, without having a permit or whatever. So it was really something that the need just kept arising and we wanted to do more with. And we have got a slogan that we kind of work by because the work is overwhelming. I mean, for anyone who works in philanthropy, the work is overwhelming. But we run by slogan, “Remember the one, one by one”, because we never want someone's hurt, someone's pain, someone's struggle. We never want them to feel like that is not enough to ask for help. Like everyone should feel like they have the right to ask for help or the right to have a need in their life and feel like they'll be recognized. They'll be noticed and they'll be assisted.
Alberto Lidji: I like that saying.
Rachel Kolisi: I mean, not everyone… it is overwhelming when you think about it in the greater scheme of things. But the thing is, when you do find that one person and you're able to partner with them, are able to work with them. That it just makes you realize ok cool, like, then you’re motivated onto the next one, and onto the next one. So, that's from my side.
Alberto Lidji: That's great. And let me ask you. On the one hand, the fact that while you're both such recognizable figures in South Africa, and Siya, globally, with your standing as captain of the Springboks. On the one hand, you are able to inspire and to convene stakeholders and to drive forward the discourse in order to help specific issues. On the other hand, one of the challenges — and Rachel you used the word ‘overwhelming’ — you probably have a lot of people writing in saying, “Look, I need your help.” And you do, I imagine, have limited resources. And it must be very challenging to address the overwhelming need in your surroundings with the fact that you do have limited resources.
Siya Kolisi: No, 100 percent. That's one of the most difficult things, is… that’s why when we were driving up and down South Africa, we would go and help. I remember when I went to Limpopo where the people had no water at all. And remember, we are driving and as we drive into this puddle of water, it did rained before and we see this lady come in with a baby on the back. And there was a dog drinking in the puddle of water. It was quite a big of puddle, and she got a bucket and she is getting the water. So, you know the water turns color when it has been… We asked her what’s it for. She said the water is to cook, to clean the clothes and to clean the house. I was shocked I couldn't believe it. And fortunately, we are there to donate water, to donate to all, to open a borehole in the community. And, and so that makes you happy. But then you sit and think, there's only… we are only going to be donating to 500 people. And there's a whole village, that’s there, that everybody comes to you and says “Please help us” and we have to choose who we give it to. Obviously we let the community chiefs or the community leaders make those decisions, but then you’re still left with people left behind. That's what hurt me the most, the fact that we went there, and we helped a few people, but we still left other people behind. But the beautiful thing about South Africa, our food packages were pretty big. So when people got… and it was too much for them, maybe let's say there were two of them at home, they would pass it to their neighbors who wouldn't have as well, which was good.
Rachel Kolisi: And also, I mean, to that point, we ere not trying to reinvent any wheels. We really are partnered with so many organizations that have already been doing amazing, amazing work for many years, but just haven't had the opportunity and the partnerships and the platform to be able to do more. So that is why it is really been important for us to make sure that we’re partnering with the organizations that are already doing the work so that they help so many people and with a little bit of extra funding and a little bit more of a platform and getting the word out of the work they're doing, they're able to do a lot more and help a lot more. So they are amazing organizations that we have partnered with. So very seldom do we leave people with no help. We are able to kind of point them in the right direction if we specifically can't help them in that moment.
Alberto Lidji: Do you find there’s much of a collaborative spirit among other philanthropists and other nonprofit organizations in South Africa who each can bring in their own complementary skill set and resources?
Rachel Kolisi: Strangely enough. Sometimes it can be rather competitive, which is really weird because you all have the end goal, right?
Alberto Lidji: Sure. It happens.
Rachel Kolisi: I mean, it is so strange but... With the partnerships that we have managed to establish it really... they've been beautiful and so authentic, so organic and really just flowed together so beautifully. We have managed to partner with great big foundations and also with people that have just started funding soup kitchens and just started like NGOs and NPOs that people want… maybe outside of, not giving them a platform… would really even know about. But doing phenomenal, phenomenal work. So, it is really just to raise those smaller organizations up and really allow them to do more of the work that they've already been doing. But it is competitive at times, but definitely some amazing, beautiful partnerships have been established.
Alberto Lidji: Well said. I would be surprised if you'd said there isn't any sort of competition or territorial nature to it. But again, also, it is great that there is a lot of opportunity to do great things together. And I imagine both of you, as a sort of dynamic husband and wife team, you're able to bring in your own complementary skill sets to how you develop your own philanthropy and your own foundation, right?
Rachel Kolisi: Absolutely. And it was funny because when we launched the foundation and we were quite intentional about launching the Kolisi foundation, not the Siya Kolisi foundation. And that is because it is my heart, too. And I find that sometimes... because he is the more influential one and the most recognized one and you know that is important. But I actually learned a lot from Bill Gates when we had an opportunity to meet with him. And, essentially because he is the man in the relationship, right, he would have been the most recognizable one, if it had been the Bill Gates Foundation. Everyone would have been like, “oh!”… and to that point, I actually assumed it was the Bill Gates Foundation until I realized it was the Gates Foundation. And I loved that he put his wife's name to it as well, and that she played such a massive part in the work that they are doing as well. And it is a part of the foundation at what we believe in, as well as kind of allowing women a platform, allowing women a voice, allowing women a space. So it really just ties into everything that we are doing. But the first couple of interviews that we were doing, everyone was like, “and the Siya Kolisi Foundation” and Siya always would stop them and be like, “it’s the Kolisi Foundation”.
Alberto Lidji: That's a good story. Siya, how do you feel about that… You don't have your name on the foundation now…. It is only the Kolisi foundation. [in jest]
Siya Kolisi: No, for me, it is never about me. That's why the foundation started. The most important people are the people that we are trying to help. The most important thing is making sure that we are adding value to the human race and making sure that we are making our country better. You know that for me, I was raised by a village. My grandmother and the rest of the township helped raise me. And that's why for me, this is so important. It is my own way of saying thank you to my community and we want to build my community and make sure that they don't need handouts, because they don't want handouts. They actually want sustainable ways. We are very proud people and I always told my team I want us to help people the way I would have wanted to be helped. Because if I didn't make it in life, I probably would have been one of the people that are receiving the food parcels. So I said this is the work that we are doing together and it should be in our family name, not just one family member. If something happens to us, our kids must take over. And that's what we are trying to do now because we want this to continue. But at the same time, I don't want it to continue. I spoke to them the other day and I said our goal is to work until we are not needed anymore; work ourselves out of a job. That is what's in my heart. We shouldn't be around anymore. Because people will be able to look after themselves because they have great opportunities, we have created opportunities, we built sustainable ways… and also like for us… like men and women are equal. And that's why you have both names, no matter who's more influential. At the end of the day, you are living under the same house, and you're both trying to achieve the same thing. And that's always been the problem in our society. That we only see just someone influential the man is well known. We always put men ahead of women in the whole time. And that's another thing we are trying to make sure that we have gender equality in our country and I'm not scared to step back when I don't know something and let my wife run it. Because I’m secure within myself. I am secure of my manhood and know I am not the most important thing. I know where my blessings come from. I know they come from God, above. So I am secure in what I have to do. There is some stuff I'm good at, and some stuff she's good at. And we let our kids know too that we are equal. All women work. The women bring food to the house and women can look after themselves so they can do everything that men can do. So we need to start working equally. And also us as men, when we get home earlier, we also start cleaning. We also start cooking. We also are doing all those things because we have to share responsibility and no job… There is no such thing that this - only the woman does this kind of job. That's the policy at my house, I wash dishes, I cook, I clean the house when I'm not lazy. I'm going to be honest [laughter] when I'm not lazy. Not all the time. And I don't always get it right... I don't always get it right. But I want... I intentionally do it in front of my kids so they can see that their dad is doing it because I never got to see that. I actually was watching a movie… A lot of my friends in my community, we never know how they are and that is one of the biggest problems in the whole wide world is fatherlessness. You know how much boys and men look up for information from their dad and I watched the movie. Me and my dad haven’t always been close, but it is a relationship that I will never give up because I love him so much. I know if he had the same opportunities as me, he probably would have looked after me better. He was always going around looking for a job and it was difficult because I was raised by my grandmother, and he was never there, came later in my life. And I see a lot of friends whose dads are there for them, but not as often as they would want them. But they kind of push them away because they were in a certain way. And I watched this movie yesterday. I learned the way this guy's dad was in prison and he had never seen him. And obviously the dad - we don't know what challenges they face in their age, in their time. And it said, your dad could never be something that he'd never seen. So sometimes I know he's my… my grandfather never used to work. So you never got that. We never saw how to be a dad. This is the way that he knew. And I asked my dad and he told me like he never… the way my relationship is with my son, it has never been with my dad, he's never had it as well. So I will ensure all those things that I wanna be like. I want him to look at me and say, “I wanna be like my father.” I wanna spend the same amount of time with my kids… I make sure I break that cycle for my family and I wanna break that cycle for men.
Alberto Lidji: Sounds like you've given this a lot of thought and that your personal story, your youth really impacted your thinking, and when did you start thinking, “Well, you know what? I'm doing very well in what I'm doing right now and I'm being recognized and I have resources. And actually there is potential for me to improve the world around me.” That sort of thinking must have happened much earlier than March 2020?
Siya Kolisi: I knew when I got my scholarship, then I saw how life is outside my township, outside my community. I knew this was not right. This does not make sense. 15 minute drive and I live in this different world and I can start dreaming differently. And I knew as a kid when I was 12 years old, I was like “Hopefully I can change this with this opportunity,”… like I can’t fail, I have to make this work, it’s my way out and that's why I always fit into place… I can adapt to wherever I'm going because I have no choice but to adapt and keep on moving forward. Because I am not doing this just for me. There are so many more people behind me. So when I got an opportunity when I was 19, I was already doing philanthropy. I was giving money back. I was giving money to my club, I bought school jerseys for my school, because we used to play with one jersey, three different teams, take off and give it to other teams. But the older I got, the whole things started coming… the more my eyes started being clear, obviously my wife encouraging me. But also I like spending time with God and discovering myself, who am I. And also trying to change and not live in what the world told me what the men should be. And I think that’s the biggest problem in our society at the moment that we think men should just have nice cars, work, bring money home and not do anything to add value at home - “Buy the kids gifts,” “Don't be there,” “Don't say to your kid,” “Don't read with your kid,” “Don't be there.” And I wanted to change these that, like women should be in the kitchen, and be cooking and cleaning and all that kind of stuff. I'm like, “no rubbish.”… I can do that. I used to do that when I was young. So I’m like, “This has to change.” The world… How can we ask for equality amongst different races, if you can’t have equality between men and women? How do women stand there and fight for equality, but they don't have equality amongst, just the human race itself. So that is my thing, I'm gonna make sure I'm fighting for gender based violence, I'm fighting for equality, for women, and I'm fighting for equality for obviously, for people living in disadvantaged areas. And each day I'm growing, you know, we are growing together. And I'm also growing, and I'm learning I'm finding ways on how to be and I'm using my platform, I'm gonna start talking on social media now about what I do and how I see life differently. And hopefully, I'm gonna have to challenge big topics, like traditional people who never get challenged, because of some of the traditional things. They are some of the problems that happen in our country.
Alberto Lidji: That's absolutely excellent. I know you cover a lot of topics with the foundation, but it certainly sounds like gender equality, which is the UN Sustainable Development Goal 5, is one of those things that’s going to be front and center. That is front and center for the foundation. I just feel it by listening to both of you that this is going to be one of those topics is going to be really important to both of you.
Siya Kolisi: It is really, we have got a boy and a girl, a brother and sister. If we can, that's our first goal is to get them to think like this. Then we know at least we’re headed in the right direction, we can never achieve it outside, if we don't achieve it here at home. So that's what we try. And I want to be a role model to them, I'm not worried about everybody else, they are the most important thing, because I know they're gonna pass it onto the next generation. Because you can't really control what people outside your home are doing. If you don't win the hearts of the ones here at home, it will be very hard to win people outside the home. So I want to make sure they raise the way that we think is best. And we really want them to think… to know that my brother is equal to my sister and my daughter is equal to my son, and they can do whatever they want in life and there's no boxes that they need to put themselves out in.
Alberto Lidji: And talking about your children in something you alluded to earlier is about wanting this foundation, this philanthropy, not just to be here and now for you two but actually, conceivably something that will be passed on and conceivably enabling your children to also embrace that philanthropic spirit and also drive positive change around them forward the way you're doing. I imagine you possibly see your philanthropy sort of unifying force for the family and something good that can be for the next generation.
Rachel Kolisi: I think if we don't manage to work ourselves out of a job within our existence time, it is definitely something that we would love for our children to continue, and you can see the way that… recently there was a massive fire in Cape Town or just outside of Cape Town. And Siya actually went over there. 5,000 people lost their homes and Siya went over there with his sister and our two kids and you can see the way that they're exposed to so many different environments in so many different traumatic experiences for other people. You can see how they are now just so giving and so loving. And wanting to do more… like my son, especially he's going to go into a philanthropy space and Siya’s brother already is talking about starting his own foundation. And we absolutely say “Yes, if that's what you want to do, then absolutely do it.” So I think it really is just a big part of it is how you raise your children. And what you expose them to. Is it one kind of loving environment or is a different environment. So, are you exposing them to other people's struggles and other people's challenges in life. So, I just think it is important when they're little to get as much exposure to different environments as possible. But definitely, the Kolisi Foundation is a legacy project. It is something that if we don't manage to work ourselves out, then hopefully the next generation does, but it is something that we want. This is what we want to be remembered for when we are not here anymore, we want people to look at the work that the Kolisi Foundation is doing, or has done, and to remember us by that. That’s where we put our hearts. And that's where we put our priorities was into those projects. And everything else, all the glitz, the glam, and the trophies and all the things that's great. It is all awesome. But what you do for others is really the reason why you are on earth.
Alberto Lidji: Very well said, indeed. And tell me if we are having a coffee in 10 years’ time, and you're looking back on 10 years’ worth of philanthropic work, where would you both want to be? What change would you hope you would have achieved by then?
Siya Kolisi: I would say a couple of schools in the township, boarding schools. Making sure that the greatness or this vision that people have, when they think of the model of the suburbs, the schools, they can wake up and sit right next to them so they can see the future. They can see the dream right in front of them. Everyday, when they wake up, and they start dreaming, like I want kids in the community to not wonder when the next meal is gonna be. I want them to wake up, like I woke up at junior school, at the school at Grey, and I was deciding which cereal am I having for breakfast. And I want to make sure kids have, they have opportunities, they can access stuff, computers, technology, all those kinds of things in their community. Because we'd always… they always take the cream of the crop in the township and take it to the suburbs, and then look who most other kids look up to. That's my goal, to make sure that you keep the best in, this will inspire others. And they know that you don't have to leave where you're from, to make it in life, that everything you need is right there. And they can keep on pushing. And people don't want to leave, you know how happy we are in our communities speaking our own language… our own culture. And you can just go to school, and learn a different language school and go back home again. And being with your family… it is really hard, adapting to another culture where people don't adjust to you, that you must adjust to them and adapt to them. But they don’t adjust to you. Then you move on to a different environment. You keep on adapting, but nobody adapts to you. And that also makes you feel belittled. Makes you feel not valued. In a country that a majority of people are black people, we have to adjust to the minority. That is not good. All I'm saying is that just empower people, just give them access, give them opportunities, so they can wake up every day encouraged and inspired to go do something with their lives, because everything's available around them.
Rachel Kolisi: I think for me, it is one thing we are looking at doing now, throughout the food is, I would really love to see everyone fed. Like, I just think it is crazy that there's people anywhere in the world that they don't have food tonight that just doesn't make sense to me. So we are looking at sustainable projects in community gardens. So gardens that bring in an income to the community. So, they kind of sell their produce off to restaurants, local restaurants, local hotels. But also, the community is able to sustain themselves with those gardens. So that's something we look at doing at the moment. And then also just, I think, seeing more women at the table and, with confidence… that there's been space made at the table for women and to Siya’s point as well, to the black South Africans in our country that there's been space made for them. And not because they've had to because of course, we have got programs that the government's created, that's kind of forced businesses and industries and stuff to allow for people of color to come through. But because it is the right thing to do, and because that is a representation of South Africa. I think everyone should feel I mean, in 10 years, I would love for every South African to understand that and see the beauty in that and see the beauty in the diversity that we have here. And, to kind of want to go out and know what it is like in somebody else's shoes and really just to see more integration among different communities. There's this mindset that townships are dangerous, don’t go to townships. But if that's the case, why are we okay, knowing that there's so many women and children living there. So just to be challenged in mindsets and assist in challenging people's thinking and assistance in challenging the way that they are processing things that are going on in our country, and really to bring about change. So we are also very aware that this time of influence. It doesn't last forever, you know. Siya retires and people move on to the next great big thing. And you know, they'll win another World Cup, and, you know, someone else will do amazing things. And so it is really what we do with this time now that's so important to make sure that it is something that's sustainable, and something that can roll on into the years to come.
Alberto Lidji: That is great. And by the way, it is also sensational, that you're at your peak, and you're talking about philanthropy. Sometimes that conversation only happens when the lights are beginning to fade. It is like, “Okay, what are we gonna do now.” But when you're at the very top, and you're embracing philanthropy wholeheartedly the way you guys are doing, it is a very noble thing, which is great. I know this conversation will resonate with a lot of people listening today, tell me a little bit about your website address, and how people can get a bit more information and how people can get involved if they're listening and they're curious about that.
Rachel Kolisi: Amazing. So our website is www.kolisifoundation.org and it is very easy to navigate. And we have got a volunteers form upon there, which is not something we are able to really make use of at this stage, just because of the COVID situation. But also just ways to get involved, ways to donate and, if that's not something that you're able to do at the moment, then just to follow what we are doing. Honestly, just the support on social media, and just the kind words and the encouragement, all of that adds to somebody's day. And honestly you credit us for being at the peak of our careers and what we are doing, but honestly, our team is absolutely phenomenal. And there's no way we would be able to be working at the capacity that we are without them. And the fact that they've able to kind of create this environment now that we can step away back into our usual jobs, and they’re able to continue with the work. They are just the most phenomenal people. But they have really tough days too. Everybody does. But I guess just sometimes a message of kindness and a message of encouragement goes a long way for people some days when you have a bad one. So I think just in general, if everyone could just be kinder and everyone could just send a message of the good stuff to people out there. I think that would be amazing. So you can check us out on social media as well, the Kolisi Foundation, and just get involved wherever you can.
Alberto Lidji: Great, really, really good vibe. And before we wrap up, I always like to ask my guests for a key takeaway that they'd love to share with the audience. And it can be anything at all. Now you're both here on the show with me. I'm privileged. So I'll ask both of you for a key takeaway. I don't know who would like to go first…
Rachel Kolisi: Siya gonna start.
Alberto Lidji: Excellent.
Siya Kolisi: You can go.
Rachel Kolisi: Okay, I think for me, something to take away. I think obviously, 2020 was just an insane year for everyone. There's not a person….. and I think there's kind of a beauty in that. Not to say that I'm undermining all the challenges and the heartache that 2020 has brought for a lot of people. But there's beauty in the fact that there isn’t a country in this world that wasn't affected in 2020. There isn't a person that can say they didn't know of someone who lost somebody or someone who suffered through 2020. And whether that was losing somebody in their life, or whether that was someone losing a job. However that looked for you, nobody can say that 2020 was a breeze for them. And I think that coming into a new year — not that COVID has gone anywhere, nor that the challenges have gone anywhere. In fact, I feel like, coming into 2021, it has potentially been worse for a lot of people. And a lot of crazy things are going on in the world. But I just think if we can all just remember that, we all have different views, we all have different ways of thinking about things we have all got different things that challenge us and things that make us upset, things that make us happy. But we are all human, at the end of the day, we all have things that really hurt us and, and really make us sad. So if we can maybe just tap into that a little bit more and just try to be kinder to one another and try just send a little bit more love, a little bit more encouragement, a little bit more of the good stuff. And that doesn't necessarily have to be on social media, just in person as well. I think that will be so good. And it doesn't take a lot for somebody to give some kindness, but for someone to receive it, sometimes it changes the whole entire direction of their day. So, I think if we can all just wake up and remember that I think we can all make a change.
Alberto Lidji: Beautiful, beautiful, I love it. Siya, what would you love for our listeners to keep in mind after they finish listening to today's episode?
Siya Kolisi: For me, it is more of a challenge for the listeners. I would like to challenge them. That everyone from young people all the way to people already working, already got their jobs, maybe you’re established, or you're working your way up. I just want to challenge people to work for more than themselves. I'm challenging people to find purpose, and know what their purpose is. Because that's exactly what you need in life. I challenge people to… when I say not just work for itself, you must know that there are so many people who I need in this world. “Yes, work for your family.” “Yes, work for yourself.” Work for people you know. Help them out. But try and pick up something… a challenge that's happening in the world… maybe it’s better you working to putting a little bit of money in places for other people, or maybe you helping a kid buy school shoes, or anything like that. And maybe you're donating towards gender based violence. As a man or woman, find something that's going to make you get out of bed, because it is easy to say ‘no’ to yourself, it is easy to say I'll just sleep in, when you find something that makes you wake up because you have no choice because you want to make sure you make a difference in someone's life and in this world, that will make this world a better place. Because I believe if we all do that, if you all pick one thing in this world that we want to change, or someone's love that you want to change, that we will go to a much, much, much better place. And that's what's been driving me each and every single day. I didn’t only do the work, going wake up and go, because I love the game. Also for Rachel and my kids and my family back at home. it is for every single kid in my community, every single mother and father who can't be the best parents they can be because they can't be at home, they can't be present, they have to go look for jobs. They're gonna have to put their pride aside and go as their neighbours for food. If I don't work hard every day, my foundation can't do what the foundation wants to do. So people's lives can't be touched. So when I put on the jersey, those are the people, those are the issues. Those are the social issues that I know that if I don't go and work, nobody's gonna want to listen to me when I speak about gender based violence. Because I'm not working hard enough. The harder that I work right now, while I'm playing, it will keep our voice going forward. And it can give me the platform to give other people the platform to use my voice too. So make it more than about yourself and try and find your purpose sooner than later. Don't chase money first. Find your purpose. Your purpose will make you see things more clearly.
Alberto Lidji: I have to say, you're both very enlightened, and I can't tell you how much I have enjoyed today's conversation. And also I’ll highlight that you're a first, Siya, in providing our listeners with a challenge for that key takeaway. I’ve never had someone… We have about 100 episodes and never had someone say, “actually, let me start off with a challenge” and I love it. Maybe I'm going to have to recalibrate the question going forward, I'm going to go ahead and say, “give us a challenge”. I really loved speaking with both of you. And I wish you tremendous, tremendous success with this fairly new philanthropic venture of yours. And I really hope that you achieve everything you want in terms of reducing gender based violence, in terms of improving food security, in terms of everything you put your mind to.… It is a pleasure speaking with you today.
Siya Kolisi: Thank you so much.
Rachel Kolisi: Yeah, we’re so grateful. Thank you so much for having us on. And just to honor you for doing this and creating this platform to really educate others and share information and share experiences. I think it is so important and so beautiful. So well done to you for honoring that and for just running ahead with it. We have had the most amazing, amazing time with you. And I hope somebody takes something away from it.
Alberto Lidji: Thank you.
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