COMBINING LUXURY WITH A CHARITABLE CAUSE

By Lewis Ndlovu – South Africa

Johannesburg – Glamour, lights, models and designers are all words synonymous with fashion shows. And when you add fashion week to it, you tend to think of a high profile fashion event with packed nights of bubbly champagne, caviar and stunning models on the runway wearing but the best of designer gear. True. But how many times have you associated a top fashion event with a charitable cause? Probably not. Charity work doesn’t have to be always behind closed doors, because in some ways, when celebrities and designers extend their hand to help someone in need, it attracts many people, thereby helping it to gain more attention from millions around the world.

United Colours Of Fashion, a New York based non-profit organisation that has supported many noble causes was recently in Johannesburg for the Mercedes Benz Fashion Week which was held in Hyde Park, Johannesburg.

In their quest to bring hope and a sense of well-being to a group of children at the Soweto Hospice, UCOF met with the hospice staff members to conduct fashion workshops with a packed schedule that included dressing for success, styling tips, and current fashion trends. In the past three months, the organization collected clothing, jewelry, shoes and bags which they brought to the hospice to be re-sold for profit inside the hospice shop with gains amassed from sales to be planted back to the community they serve.
During the Mercedes Benz Fashion Week, UCOF also volunteered their time at the hospice. They had a busy schedule running between the hospice and fashion shows.

The Soweto Hospice trains a range of caregivers – from family members to healthcare workers to medical students – in psychological support and nursing. It also helps find facilities for patients with no one to care for them. It provides vitally needed services for patients and families who face the emotional and physical trauma of incurable illnesses including but not limited to cancer and Aids. Mapetla, a day care centre provides childcare services and education to the children of hospice patients. All of the kids attending the centre have a parent or relative who has been cared for by hospice. Many have parents that died of HIV/AIDS and themselves have HIV/AIDS. Soweto Hospice engineered one of South Africa´s first children´s units to provide specialty care and reduce suffering endured by youngsters with life-threatening illnesses, including AIDS and cancer.

Hospitals address huge populations of children and treat diseases. Hospices focus on patients and see their mission as treating people, individually-often with chronic illnesses-with compassionate care and medication. Without access to the care they need, people suffer horrific and unacceptable levels of distress that amount to a violation of their human rights. The Hospice fills the gap by relieving suffering physically, emotionally and spiritually, performing vital work on the front line of caring for people who face the end of life.

Soweto Hospice offers a wide range of life-saving and love-giving services from a multidisciplinary team of doctors, psychologists, social workers, nurses, and case workers, along with a palliative care unit, pediatric unit, home-based care, a palliative care driver, volunteers and many more resources available to children and their families.
The Hospice has revolutionized reaching community residents by training staff to administer care at patients´ homes, also teaching family members effective ways of supporting the efforts and preventing further vulnerabilities. Mothers or guardians, for instance, learn proper nutrition and hygiene to improve health and the living environment and reduce the risks of spreading or contracting infections.

UCOF President and Chairman, Ciano Clerjuste hopes this foundation will help other young and gifted artists to give them the opportunity to make their dreams come true. While doing so, he takes the lead for UCOF with planning their Annual Gala Soiree and International Fashion Spectacle to help raise funds for the UCOF Charity Care Program at the Soweto Hospice. The main goal of the UCOF Charity Care Program is to help people who are living with HIV/AIDS, paralysis and Sickle Cell.

“The most rewarding fragment of my journey on earth now, is knowing that I am able to use my talents, valuable time, expertise and fashion for humanitarian causes. The best part of it all is, in return, I do not get anything back-but making a difference is mesmerizing, remunerating and enchanting,” said Ciano Clerjuste.

He has also worked with some of the most well established fashion designers and stylists around the world and is delighted to be able to use his years of experience in the fashion industry to help others. Linking high-end profile events and humanitarian causes is the ethos of UCOF which is seeking to broaden its horizons globally by giving back to the less fortunate in whatever way possible with fashion as a leading backdrop.

*Lewis Ndlovu – A South African based Key Correspondent. Also works for HDN and Aids Alliance (Europe/Asia) as freelance writer for periodicals and journals.

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