Should your birthplace determine your future? At the Diplomatic Courier and Ubuntu Education Fund, we know it should not, but we see that too often it does. The poor tend to stay poor. In the townships of South Africa where Ubuntu works, as well as in many places around the world, too many eager, intelligent children have no opportunity to go to school, to dream great dreams, and to work towards them. We all need roots to grow, but human beings are not trees: our roots should strengthen us, not hold us down. The children of the townships of South Africa play under the same sun as the children in the penthouses of Park Avenue. Children everywhere deserve the same chances, and opportunities to learn and grow. And if they get those chances, they are likely to succeed.

The Should Your Birthplace Determine Your Future? photo exhibit came about when children enrolled in Ubuntu’s Early Childhood Development program were asked about their dreams and hopes for their futures. The young childhood aspirations that they told are brought to life by Tim Hans in these photographs, taken in front of their homes. In these images, we vividly see the stark contrast between the impoverished community in which these children live, and their high hopes for a future bursting with opportunity. We fundamentally believe that each child’s dreams should become reality depending not on where they are from, but on what is inside them.

Ubuntu Education Fund is a non-profit organization providing world-class health and education support to the orphaned and vulnerable children of Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Ubuntu's mission is simple, all encompassing, yet radical: to help raise 2000 township children by providing what all children deserve-everything. By integrating into the community and taking a comprehensive and holistic approach, Ubuntu ensures that children in Port Elizabeth receive support from ‘cradle to career.’ By providing children and each of their family members with world-class health care, long-term education support, and household counseling, Ubuntu ensures that each child has the ability to grow into a healthy and successful adult. For 14 years, Ubuntu has worked to create an environment where people in Port Elizabeth have all the resources needed to achieve their personal and professional goals, breaking the cycle of poverty for generations to come.

Tim Hans grew up with a love for people and making things happen. He and Ubuntu Education Fund founder, Jacob Lief, are both graduates of the American School in London—the school that facilitated Hans’ first trip to Port Elizabeth in 2007. Hans’ passion was recognized by Lief, who invited him down the following year, further growing his interest in the Ubuntu philosophy. After earning his B.F.A. in Photography and Imaging from Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles, California, Hans was eager to contribute his talents in any way possible. His work with Ubuntu is heavily influenced by Edward Curtis, a highly regarded photographer of Native Americans in the early 1900s. During his visits to Port Elizabeth, and the surrounding townships, Hans was awestruck by the deep personal connections within the community as well as the high level of happiness of the residents despite a lack of material goods. The positive attitudes of those whom he met in South Africa remain a continuous inspiration, not just artistically, but in his every interaction. Along with his skateboard and a camera, Hans carries this sensibility with him—while in fleeting moments of mutual fascination, he captures the people and places that give our existence character.

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This gallery was originally published in the Diplomatic Courier's September/October 2013 print edition, and in an exhibit at the National Press Club in August 2013.

Tim Hans
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.