Zack Gross
Zack Gross

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Manitoba Clothing Company Gives Back to African Roots 

Brandon Sun “Small World” Column,  Monday, October 21 / 13

Zack Gross

Time for a corporate good news story!  Full disclosure:  I like to wear Mondetta clothing, especially as the cooler autumn weather closes in.  I’ve got a hoodie, a Jets jacket, an Olympic logo sweater and a parka made by Mondetta – and maybe more!

Mondetta Clothing was founded twenty-five years ago and has always maintained a strong philanthropic profile.  The company is a rags to riches success story in itself, of young entrepreneurs with family origins in East Africa, starting up a Manitoba-based company that has taken the clothing world by storm.  The Modha family came as refugees and immigrants and now contribute to bettering the part of the globe that they left.

In the early 1970s, dictatorial Ugandan President Idi Amin expelled citizens of Asian descent with only ninety days’ notice.  I remember those days, as a University student in Winnipeg, meeting newly-arrived people looking for a new life yet grieving the loss of their past home.  I also remember visiting Uganda in 1995, as part of a project undertaken by the Marquis organization, more than twenty years after the exodus, and encountering people still looking for family members and evidence of their lost heritage in East Africa. 

The Mondetta Charity Foundation (MCF) was established in 2004 in particular to support programs involving orphans and primary school children in Kenya and Uganda whose families have been ravaged by hunger, poverty and disease.  The AIDS epidemic, for instance, has left many children alone in the world or families overburdened by the loss of one or both parents.

The MCF is currently supporting a primary school in a sprawling slum in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, where they are supplying students with meals, upgrading the school building and installing a playground with play structures.  They have covered the cost of over two million meals so far, as well as 1400 school uniforms.  Working with Winnipeg’s Seven Oaks School Division, they have contributed books and shelving to the school and initiated a teacher exchange program.

In Lamu, Kenya, MCF is supporting a large orphanage, providing very young children with security, food, medical attention and pre-school and primary education.  Aside from raising funds via donations and events, such as golf tournaments, Mondetta also contributes 1% of the annual gross revenue from its Performance Gear clothing line to its charitable foundation.  All operating and administrative costs from this work are borne by the parent company, so all donations go straight into programming.

Last year, the MCF also organized a working visit by five Manitoba dentists and their assistants to Kampala to deliver dental care to four hundred children connected to their work.  In May of this year, the estate of Louise Charette, a former CBC journalist, gave MCF substantial funding for the construction of a new wing for the Kampala school and for the orphanage.

Sub-Saharan Africa continues to fall behind as other parts of the developing world make economic progress.  Despite the recent discovery and exploitation of natural resources through the mining sector in Africa – oil, gold, diamonds, coltan and more – or maybe because of it, sadly, the burden of poverty remains heavy for the average African.  Conflict, disease, corruption – these are daily occurrences.

The MCF website documents the challenges facing their friends in Africa: one-third of Africans suffering from malnutrition, only 57% of children enrolled in school, less than half the population with access to medical care, and more than one million children orphaned by AIDS.

A few months ago, I had the opportunity to meet the principal of the school in Kampala supported by the MCF.  She was an incredibly strong person, visiting Winnipeg to connect with supporters and exhort us to do more.  She was a prototypical headmistress.  You didn’t want to rile her by saying “It can’t be done!”

A hopeful story in this troubled world is the work of the Mondetta Charitable Foundation.  While they may not “solve” the big issues, the MCF certainly brings needed human and financial resources to bear in bettering the daily lives of East African children.  It makes me proud to purchase and display their clothing and to support their efforts.

Zack Gross works for the 
Manitoba Council for International Co-operation (MCIC), a coalition of more than 40 international development organizations.

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