Project Ubuntu: A City Year alumni’s journey to spread the spirit of service nationwide

I am a person through other people; my humanity is tied to yours.

The concept of Ubuntu, a proverb from the Zulu tribe of South Africa, has inspired a City Year alum to create a journey through America that celebrates and supports organizations that improve their communities through kindness and human effort.

Daniel Becton leading an NVIDIA employee in service at Project Inspire 2010 in San Jose, CA.

The campaign is called Project Ubuntu. Between August 2012 and August 2013, Daniel Becton (San Jose ’10 & London ’11) will travel to all 50 states and Washington, D.C., supporting one group in one community for one week in each state. He plans to raise the profile of partners, help organize benefit events and deliver workshops to young people as he supports of a variety of causes.

City Year New York alumni Oz Skinner is joining Daniel on this journey and he plans to create a documentary out of the experience. Together they will traverse some 18,000 miles of American soil, spreading a contagion of kindness along the way.



Daniel is currently serving as a Recruitment Officer with City Year London, and we had a chance to catch up with him and learn more about his project.

Where did the idea for Project UBUNTU come from?

City Year gave me the tools and belief that I can change the world. The skills and network I cultivated during my year of service convinced me that I had the energy and ability to unite people in service in communities across the nation. Everywhere I’ve travelled in the world, I’ve seen inspiring people dedicating to help others, and I wanted to connect that web across the United States and beyond.

Why did you decide to call it Project UBUNTU?

The people and organizations that we are celebrating all embody the spirit of ‘ubuntu’ — it is a concept that gains relevance as the world becomes increasingly globalized, and we are therefore better able to recognize our shared humanity. Ubuntu is about belonging, and we need to take a cue from those who work tirelessly to help everyone feel valued as a human being.

What are some of the projects you have set up that you are most excited about?

I’m excited for all of our projects, but one I want to highlight in particular is the work of Methodist missionaries on the Choctaw reservation in Philadelphia, Mississippi. These folks work with the local Native American community to combat poverty and social prejudices in southern Mississippi. The leader of this initiative, an incredibly inspiring man named Jon Walters, died unexpectedly this past Christmas. I am now more determined than ever to bring books and clothes to the community and to let folks there know that their huge hearts are valued.

What are you hoping to accomplish with this project, both personally and overall?

I believe we find ourselves at a crossroads as a nation in the 21st century. We have become such an interdependent society that we face the option of maintaining inequalities or supporting one another through love. Like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. realized, we have to overcome social injustice by promoting love for all of humanity.

The purpose of Project Ubuntu is to spur people to follow Dr. King’s lead and unite LOVE with POWER — to be proactive in building America into a caring community that offers hope and support for every child. As Dr. King said, we “dream of a nation where all our gifts and resources are held not for ourselves alone, but as instruments of service for the rest of humanity.”

How can people get involved?

Right now we really need help with raising funds and awareness. Through Kickstarter, my team has been raising money and we have set the goal at $10,000 to make this project possible.  We need to raise just over $5,000 dollars over the next 24 days and I’m really hoping we can build the support we need.

Also, we encourage everyone who is interested in our work to follow the Project Ubuntu blog and Twitter account, like us on Facebook,  and spread the word about what we’re doing.

In many of our individual state projects there will be opportunities for volunteer engagement, and we’ll publicize these throughout the year. We also believe that getting people to think seriously about the role of community in America is a crucial first step toward social change


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