Yesterday we had the pleasure of listening and interacting with Kevin Chaplin, former director of the First National Bank of South Africa here in the Western Cape. Currently he is the director of both the Amy Biehl Foundation and The South African Ubuntu Foundation. Kevin is a stand up guy and an inspiration to anyone who is going into the business world or into the field of serving others through different foundations. He was a banker for 25 years when he realized one day that there was more that he could be and wanted to be doing. At the Age of 42 he quit his job as a head banker in the Western Cape area and started the non-profit Ubuntu Foundation. Ubuntu is a Xhosa word that can mean many different things, but most of all it means the caring for others through your own attitude and actions.
Amy Biehl was an American that was over here in South Africa in the early 1990’s studying at the University of Cape Town and helping people in the townships. During the 1993 political struggles for freedom and the end of the Apartheid system, she was taking two of her friend’s home to one of the townships when they ran into an angry black mob that was demonstrating for their freedom. You see, the black man here in Africa was raised to hate the White men and women in South Africa because of the Apartheid system of racism that had been going on since the 1940’s. As these men and women of the township were demonstrating, Amy had wandered into the middle of the bee’s nest and found herself under attack because of her skin color, like many of the people who were attacking here had been attacked for. Amy ended up dying there in that angry mob after being beaten with a brick and then stabbed by four men that were eventually arrested and sentenced to 18 years in prison. 5 years later, Amy’s parents made a trip here to South Africa to see what their daughter did and walk in her footsteps. While they were here, they did an amazing thing. They pleaded with the South African government to release the four men that had killed their daughter. When I heard this, I was shocked and even angry that a mother would want to have her daughters killer released from prison. As I kept thinking about it while Kevin was talking to us, I came to realize that the Biehl’s saw more in the men that having them just rot in a jail cell for 18 years. An even more amazing thing is that two of the four men that were convicted for the murder of Amy were then hired by Amy’s parents to help them with the Amy Biehl Foundation. Today the Amy Biehl Foundation feeds more the 2,300 children a day while also teaching them the essentials that they are going to need to one day get themselves out of the townships.
Kevin was a great speaker to listen to and interact with and had tons of knowledge that all I could do was sit back and soak it all in. There were a few things about his presentations that stood out to me throughout the day. At one point he put a quote up on the projector that read, “I don’t believe in circumstances in the sense that things happen to you, but rather I believe in the circumstances that you make for yourself.” I have quotes similar to this one, but none struck me as much as this one did. I realized that I believed everything that the quote was talking about and that it was so true. The second thing that struck me as Kevin spoke was the way he lead his group at The FNB (First National Bank). He was talking about all different types of things but when he said that he personally wrote and signed birthday cards for his employees every time their birthdays came around, it showed me a man that seriously cared about his employees. I thought it was an awesome gesture that took no more than 5-10 minutes to do each day, but meant that he actually cared for the workers. Overall we learned more than I ever expected from him and it’s still soaking in a day later.