Dr Imtiaz Sooliman, founder of Gift of the Givers, awarded Chancellor's Medal
7 September 2017
Through his philanthropic and humanitarian work locally and abroad, Dr Imtiaz Sooliman has become a household name in South Africa. Gift of the Givers has provided immediate and hands-on support to many local communities in need, especially in disaster zones like Knysna after the fires and Alexandra with its flash floods and fires.
With his vision and under his leadership, people around the world (in over 42 countries) have received care, medical assistance, disaster relief, food, water, shelter and clothing. In recent years, Dr Sooliman has also become increasingly involved in mediation in violent conflicts and negotiations for the release of hostages.
At its spring graduation ceremony, the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Pretoria formally acknowledged Dr Sooliman's work, life and commitment to uplifting communities around the world. Dr Sooliman was awarded the Chancellor's Medal for his pursuit of the ideals of peace, tolerance and improving the human condition. At the graduation ceremony, Prof Vasu Reddy, Dean of the Faculty of Humanities, acknowledged that 'Dr Sooliman's work transcends boundaries of race, religion, class, nationality and geography and shows the world what it means to be truly human'.
Dr Sooliman gave a talk in which he specifically addressed young people in South Africa and the assembled graduates. He told them to always remember the sacrifices that others had made for their education, and to always give back to their communities and families. He encouraged graduates to not be drawn into a materialistic culture and in the process forget where they started from or the people who helped them achieve what they have. 'All the education, and all the technology and all the learning in the world is useless if we lose our values, our social virtue and our selfless service, especially to parents, kith and kin, neighbours and the communities where we come from. So don't forget where you come from. Remember, that is your humble beginning and people stood by you. To be a great person, you go back to where you started from, and you start with those who put you where you are today. You did not come here on your own, and you are not too clever. Everything comes by the Grace of God Almighty. So I want students to remember that and never forget your parents and what they have done for you to be where you are today,' said Dr Sooliman. He asked the assembly to remain true to the values of Ubuntu, humanity, and compassion.
Dr Sooliman noted the selfless contribution of UP alumni to his organisation, and the role that alumni have played in improving lives around the world using their education, skills and the values that the University has instilled in them.
The Faculty of Humanities emphasised that Dr Sooliman personifies the ideals of the principles of the humanities: to use one's education and selfless principles to extend oneself to the broader benefit of other humans, thus improving societies and uplifting humanity in general. As a result, Dr Sooliman and Gift of the Givers have made a visible difference, on a daily basis, in the lives of thousands of people in dire circumstances, and they have done so with utmost bravery, propelled by the principles of social justice and the moral imperative to help other people.
The University of Pretoria's Chancellor, Prof Wiseman Nkuhlu, presented the Chancellor's Medal.
Watch the ceremony and listen to Dr Sooliman's talk by clicking on the video link below.