When the United Nations declared 18 July as Mandela Day, the ethos at its very inception, was the idea that an individual has the ability to transform and impact society. It is most appropriate that we too commemorate the Life of an individual who brought this concept to Light on a daily basis.
Dr Charlie van der Horst has been described in many ways – a child of a Holocaust survivor, to That Goddamned Nutcase (by the Harvard Medical School’s Admissions’ Officer), to the doctor who went to jail to save North Carolina lives, to the principle investigator who helped prevent mother-to-child-transmission (in HIV prevention programs predominantly in Lilongwe, Malawi), to the scientist who was the inspiration behind the NIH’s AIDS Clinical Trials Group Network’s first international site i.e. WITS University’s Clinical HIV Research Unit, to the liberal doctor who challenged the US bureaucracy for not expanding Medicaid, to the peculiar professor who wanted access to an Olympic size pool near public transport in Johannesburg, South Africa and much more.
It is true that a lot of this description could apply to thousands of medical doctors today, the difference with Ntate Charlie is that he was a pioneer at a time when it was unsafe to set new boundaries. Like Madiba, he risked his family’s comfort zone by being arrested for a principle and in so doing prioritised humanity’s interest ahead of his own. To him there was no other choice since one of his Life’s principles was that people who did not walk-the-walk died in the Holocaust.
In Africa his mentees call themselves Charlie’s Children or the closest thing to a grandfather my kids will ever know but behind each description lies a wealth of profound stories based on the choices of an individual and that individual’s passion for morality. A paternal figure who as all fathers do – protected the vulnerable or stood alongside those unable to defend themselves by walking the walk alone.
We salute this Individual’s Humaneness, which positively influenced the lives of thousands of humans on a global scale.
We salute this individual’s humaneness, which ultimately impacted the lives of thousands of humans across the world.
Hamba Kahle Ntate Charlie
*African Language Xhosa, Hamba Kahle – Farewell
*African Language Sesotho, Ntate – Father
*African Language, Zulu
Imizekeloyakhoiyohlalaiphilakithi – Your example forever lives in us