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The Inspiration

"James has been a good friend and volunteer here at Nazareth House for the past seven years, especially in our Children’s Home. Apart from spending quality time with the children, the highlight of each year is always a special day’s outing to a friend’s farm, for a picnic and fun-filled day. Over the years James has become a great support to the child care staff, and also a trusted mentor to the children here. We wish him every blessing in his new enterprise, and may it be of great benefit to many disadvantaged and needy people around South Africa."

Sister Margaret, Nazareth House, Cape Town
November 2007

I grew up in a highly politicised home in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa, during a time of great social unrest and political turmoil in the country. This particular region of South Africa was, and still remains, one of the more impoverished areas in South Africa where people live in dire conditions with significant social problems. Thanks to my wonderful parents, James (snr) and Joan Fernie, from a young age I developed a deep sense of compassion for the people victimised by the cruel system of Apartheid. During the 1980’s, in my teenage years, my quest to make a difference took the form of political activism and resistance – in those limited ways that I could – to the Apartheid policies.

Upon completing my law degree in 1994, I was awarded the Abe Bailey Travel Bursary which took me to the United Kingdom where I worked for the corporate law firm Clifford Chance for two years. In October 1996, I moved to Brussels where I completed a 6 month traineeship or “Stag” with ECCO, The European Commission Humanitarian Office. Upon returning to South Africa I did legal work in one form or another until March 2003, when I joined Inspirational Places, a highly successful and reputable company doing the international marketing for a portfolio of very exclusive hotels and safari lodges in Southern and East Africa. Through Inspirational Places I developed excellent relationships with some of the most reputable high-end tour operators both locally and internationally, who promote and sell Africa to some of the wealthiest people in the world.

During the very wet and cold winter of 2001 in Cape Town, I followed a strong intuition to get involved at grass-roots level with a charitable organisation. I didn’t simply want to give a cheque, I wanted to get involved on a very real and human side, interacting with the most marginalised and disadvantaged groups of people. Through a cosmic chain of events I entered the volunteer programme at Nazareth House, an orphanage for children (some of whom are living with HIV/AIDS), and have been involved with them ever since. Spending time with the children has brought such love, joy and contentment to my life over the years. It occurred to me in 2007 that an amazing plan for my life was staring right at me; to combine my passion for helping the underdog, my life’s experiences and the vast and incredible network of amazing people around the world who love South Africa and its people, and want to make a very real and significant difference.

There is a wonderful quote in the book “The Monk who sold his Ferrari” by Robin Sharma, which goes as follows; “when all is said and done, no matter what you have achieved, no matter how many summer homes you own, no matter how many cars sit in your driveway, the quality of your life will come down to the quality of your contribution”. I invite everyone and anyone to join me on this most exhilarating, exciting and incredible journey of genuine love, compassion and contribution.

James Fernie
Director, Uthando South Africa