Going pro bono with a GoPro

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“This is a great example of tikkun olam, which is an ancient Hebrew concept meaning ‘repair the world’. It’s imperative that we continue to take care of one another at a time like this.”
by TALI FEINBERG | Apr 30, 2020

So said Chad Nathan to his 24 400 followers on his Instagram profile @gingerwithagopro, after he raised R150 000 in less than 38 hours for welfare organisations in the Mother City.

A photojournalist and cinematographer, Nathan has captured spectacular images of the empty city under lockdown. But he has taken it one step further, using his profile to help others see that people are suffering economic hardship, and that every person has the ability to help.

He has since raised his fundraising target. He raised an additional R50 000 to help 650 refugees in Cape Town, and then went on to raise a further R50 000 in few days. This will be allocated to smaller charities like One Bag Full and Africa Awake.

On his BackaBuddy campaign page, “Raising Hope”, Nathan wrote, “I have been documenting the coronavirus lockdown since 27 March 2020. I have seen the impact this disease has had on the less fortunate in South Africa. I have been working alongside Cans With Purpose, Ladles of Love, Breadline Africa, and the Courage Foundation over the past few weeks, and have witnessed all the amazing work they are doing for those in need.

“What started as an initiative to raise R100 000 to help these four organisations has led to much more money and awareness. We are now able to give money to other organisations in need. We are approaching winter in South Africa, and the cold weather presents even more hardship for those lacking essential items, especially those without a home.

“We are all going through this unprecedented time together, and it’s unclear how long it will last. Every cent counts, and each additional R50 000 will be given to a different charity helping to combat the effects of coronavirus in South Africa.”

Nathan isn’t one to stay on the sidelines. If he wants something done, he goes out and does it. At the young age of 26, he has built a successful career in photography and cinematography, and has previously raised funds for people and organisations.

When he hits the streets, he has no formal plan, but shoots in the moment, striking up conversations with ordinary people to understand their story. At the launch of this latest fundraising initiative, Nathan was worried that people wouldn’t be able to give. But with his trademark chutzpah, he decided to go ahead anyway, and the results have been astounding.

Nathan told the SA Jewish Report that documenting the lockdown was “insane ... filming a city that’s usually bustling with energy where there is now absolutely nothing – it’s eerie. I was allowed to document it because I reached out to the Cape Jewish Chronicle and said I would love to document the lockdown [for it].”

On the road, Nathan was confronted with the reality of what lockdown means for the average South African. “The emotions have been pretty hard-hitting. Documenting it made me realise I wanted to help.”

At the same time, a friend asked if his aunt’s organisation, Ladles of Love, could use one of his videos. Nathan made contact with the organisation, offering to document some of its work and help raise funds for it. Interactions with other outreach programmes soon followed, and before he knew it, Nathan was on the streets and in the townships, capturing the faces and the stories of those who needed help.

Nathan knows that his work is a powerful medium to get attention and support, and feels obligated to use it to as a means to help others. This is why he photographed Mama Silvi, a refugee who gave birth to her son in a tent in Cape Town on 19 April. Along with the photo, he quoted the late German-Jewish philosopher, Hannah Arendt, on the experience of being a refugee.

He added, “There are more than 650 refugees living in this stretch tent. They have been through a lot, and I’m happy to say that the Raising Hope Campaign is donating R50 000 to these people. The money will be used to help feed them, and should last for about four to five weeks.”

While such scenes are hard to witness, Nathan believes that by taking photos and sharing stories in a sensitive way as well as raising funds, he is empowering himself and others.

“Instead of feeling sad, I was able to take a positive approach and document this work. Spending the day with Ladles of Love and seeing the volunteers made me want to be a part of it. I wanted to capture more change-makers.”

Nathan is particularly inspired by Danny Diliberto, the founder of Ladles of Love, who left the restaurant industry to feed the needy. A Cape Town soup kitchen, Ladles of Love feeds about 5 000 people a day. “Danny explained to me the concept of seva, an ancient Sanskrit idea of giving without even wanting to receive a thank you in return.”

The toughest thing he has witnessed is children as young as two lining up (with two metres between them) as they wait patiently to be fed by these organisations. At the same time, the most positive thing he has seen is the way South Africans have come together and contributed in any way they can. He wants to thank everyone who has donated to his campaign and others, noting that, “Every cent counts. R275 can feed a family of four for a week, so a small donation can make a big impact.

“Without these organisations, none of this would be possible,” he says. “They need more recognition.”

So, what’s next for the “ginger with a GoPro”? “Many of my gigs [photography jobs] have been cancelled. I usually travel around the world to do my work, and now everything has changed,” Nathan says. “But I’m not scared. I don’t sleep at night, thinking of the next goal: how we can get to half a million or even R1 million. I’m doing this all pro-bono, but I know that what you give is what you get back.”

  • To contribute to Chad Nathan’s Raising Hope campaign, visit https://www.backabuddy.co.za/champion/project/raising-hope2020

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