John Travolta, his petitely-pregnant wife actress Kelly Preston, together with daughter Ella Bleu, graced South African shores with their presence for five days during the FIFA festivities not only to demonstrate their support for the Australian Socceroos, but also to embrace and raise awareness for the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund and its various initiatives.

John Travolta

It was a fantastic opportunity for the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund to host such an acclaimed movie legend. Australian airline, Qantas (official sponsor of the Australian Socceroos) stole the show on the occasion hosted in Gauteng – even if the Socceroos did not enjoy much success in the stadium latterly – not only for convincing such a screen icon to support their team, but also as John, acting in his capacity as the Qantas Global Goodwill Ambassador, presented the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund with a cheque for R70 000 on their behalf, proving that Qantas truly have heart!

When John arrived at the event he was encouraged to view art and jewellery made by children from disadvantaged communities on display. The children (and adults) were visibly awe-struck by the presence of this larger-than-life yet clearly humble, courteous and intensely considerate man, who of his own initiative encouraged the children to dance with him on stage much to the delight of the VIP’s and media present.

 It was more than apparent that this occasion was not merely a PR exercise – John and Kelly are clearly passionate about children. In fact they both embraced and interacted with the children spontaneously, taking time to award hugs and offering encouraging smiles in every direction. Children and philanthropy are a high priority for John and Kelly; recently John made world headlines for flying his 707 Boeing, laden with supplies, to Haiti in order to assist with disaster relief after an earthquake devastated the country. John and Kelly have also established the Jett Travolta Foundation in memory of their son who died tragically last year – the foundation sights as its aim to make resources available wherever possible to assist and provide relief to children with vision, hearing, mobility, communication, behavior learning impairments or other special medical, environmental, health or educational needs.

It is therefore fitting that this inspiring couple be associated with the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund and John made it clear on the occasion that he shared Nelson Mandela’s vision of “…nurturing the spirits of children in order that they may follow their dreams” which goes beyond solely providing the necessities of food and shelter. “We are hoping that this is the beginning of a very long relationship with John Travolta. We hope it will profile the fund and the children as well,” said Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund CEO, Sibongile Mkhabela.

The Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund is forging ahead in all areas in promoting the quality of life for all South African children, but especially those children from disadvantaged communities. High on the agenda at the moment is the building and completion of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital, which was proposed in 2009 and which will receive its first patients in 2012.

There are only four dedicated children’s hospitals in Africa and only one in South Africa, while countries such as Canada boast as many as 23 dedicated children’s hospitals. It is a widely held view that the healthcare needs of a child (both physical and emotional) are vastly different from those of an adult and that therefore children ideally require a facility that takes this difference into account. The Children’s Red Cross Hospital, itself in dire need of refurbishment, is the only children’s hospital serving the needs of South African children as well as many beyond our borders and is therefore not in a position to cope with the demand on its own.

The new hospital is being built on the University of the Witwatersrand campus in Gauteng as an academic and tertiary referral hospital and it will serve the needs of the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and the Gauteng provinces, as the Western Cape and surrounding regions are serviced by The Red Cross Children’s Hospital. The hospital will have a 200 bed capacity with state-of-the-art specialist paediatric facilities available to all children irrespective of their social and economic status.

The Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund survives on the goodwill of both small and large donors in its vision to establish the hospital and child-centered medical care. Providing quality healthcare for children is a human right not a privilege, after all.

For more information contact The Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund on 011 274 5600 or visit their website at www.nelsonmandelachildrensfund.com

Article and photos courtesy of Raising Kids Magazine, Aug/Sept 2010, Pg12-13