Scholarships to leave a legacy for LGBT community

Shambhala organisation  founder Dale Pudney

The Shambhala Organisation founder Dale Pudney

A South African businessman’s remarkable new initiative has just announced a set of scholarships for LGBT youth.

Dale Pudney’s The Shambhala Organisation is awarding up to ten R25,000 scholarships for the 2016 academic year, with the intention of helping deserving applicants become business leaders.

The entrepreneur, strategist and consultant launched the organisation last year, offering scholarships, private equity funding for entrepreneurial ventures and human performance enhancement.

While the investment arm is a commercial undertaking to ensure sustainability, the scholarships program is the philanthropic part of the initiative.

Pudney explains that the success of his business ventures have resulted in “significant financial rewards” which allow him to support the development of the LGBT community through the scholarships.

“In order to create a legacy for myself and leave something sustainable to support my passions – gay business leadership and entrepreneurship – I founded The Shambhala Organisation,” he says.

The organisation is focused on addressing the “glass ceiling” that many LGBT people face in trying to succeed in the business world, a barrier that he has himself encountered.

“Coming from an extremely religious sect, and then going on into the engineering industry, I only came out late in life; very nervous of how my sexuality would affect my career prospects,” Pudney reveals.

“Once I started working at the more senior end of the business spectrum, I realised that it actually isn’t a big issue at the senior levels. However, I do know that I was declined for some senior placements because I was open about my sexuality.”

In a short space of time, Shambhala has already awarded six scholarships for 2015, and also invested in a company, Designer Solutions, that has since grown from employing three to eight people and now boasts a sustainable cash flow.

Shambhala Private Equity also helped finance the production of  Mr Gay World 2015 and the Pink Loerie Festival, both recently hosted in Knysna.

Pudney hopes that Shambhala will lead the way in LGBT business leaders offering more support to their community. “People are too busy trying to get ahead by pulling others down rather than growing and supporting each other for everyone to benefit,” he argues.

Mncedisi Mpungose, one of the 2015 scholarship recipients, is in his 4th year of an LLB at the University of KZN and has secured articles at Webber Wentzel Attorneys. Growing up as a gay man in rural KZN, he wants to make an impact on the lives of LGBT youth.

Mncedisi Mpungose, one of the 2015 scholarship recipients, is in his 4th year of an LLB at the University of KZN and has secured articles at Webber Wentzel Attorneys. Growing up as a gay man in rural KZN, he wants to make an impact on the lives of LGBT youth through the law.

“Proudly LGBT business leaders and professionals need good role models to aspire towards and learn from,” Pudney adds. “There are almost no such LGBT role models and mentors. As a result, the only aspect of the community that is in the public eye is the ‘gay scene’, which detracts from the image we as a community need.”

When asked what kind of youths he hopes will apply for the scholarships, he replies: “Leaders. All of the recipients for 2015 have natural leadership qualities and are doing things for the causes that they believe in.

”Very few of the recipients are chasing pure commercial objectives, but their natural leadership qualities will make them successful leaders in any venture they are a part of,” he says.

Applicants are expected to provide voluntary service to the LGBT community, with the objective of promoting and supporting LGBT business leadership, in return for the scholarship grant.

Projects that the current beneficiaries are involved in include pro-bono legal work, helping to build community acceptance of gay black youth, growing the drag queen industry, and highlighting gender issues at the school level.

Pudney hopes Shambhala will stimulate the growth of proudly LGBT business leaders and professionals and “shift the focus away from the ‘scene’ and bring more balance into the community.”

He adds: “Everyone wants a better world, but they do nothing about it.” Pudney, at least, is putting his money where his mouth is.

More information and application forms for the scholarships can be found at www.shambhala.org.za. The first round of applications for 2016 closes on 31 August. Students from all fields of study in undergrad or post-grad tertiary education are invited to apply.

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