Meet Oliver Quambush, who left a fast paced life behind for the greater good, helping children and mothers in South Africa find hope….
“Learn, Earn, Return”– Oliver Quambusch
And we’re live on June 26! Hey, good afternoon here in the US. Some of us are off lockdown, some of us are going back in, so that if that’s not a reminder that we all need to stay vigilant and continue to do the right thing, I don’t know what is. Um, so my guest today is really super cool. He is coming to us from a little place called Melville outside of Johannesburg in South Africa. When I was writing up kind of just a little description of the show, I used my favorite African proverb, which is a, if you think you’re too small to make a difference, you haven’t spent the night in a room with a mosquito. And it is very true. Um, and I think a lot of us have, you know, been forced into these transformations. As we’ve been going through this lockdown in quarantine, um, either by our own choice or, you know, not by our own choice, whether we lost a job or we’ve had a career transition or you’re coming home and you’re working here and all the family dynamics, all sorts of things. Um, and I think a lot of us have found solace in giving. Even though we may not have financial resources, but we have time more time on our hands, more emotional bandwidth. Um, and I think sometimes it’s hard to see, you know, what cause can you really be aligned with where can you make a difference? Um, and Oliver’s story is really interesting. I’m going to let him tell it. Um, but he’s a really great example of a true hero on earth. Somebody who took one life and changed it into a very, very different life of service and winds up impacting hundreds to thousands of children and mothers in need in South Africa and beyond every day. So, first of all, hello, how are you?
I am super, thank you so much for having me Gabriela.
Excellent. It’s always a pleasure to talk to you. I wish I could be there more often. Um, so you and I met about 14 years ago. I took a nap today and, um, I remember dropping off a laptop and I grabbed a small children’s home at that point. And I said, I have an extra laptop, you know, let me go drop it off and that’s how you and I connected. So many things have changed since then. And you now run several homes for children, um, hotel hope, initiatives, something I’m passionate you know, involved with. Work for a while now. So tell your story, but I really want you to also tell everybody kind of what your life was before and go into where you are now, but give everybody a little bit of an intro to what hotel hope is and what your mission is.
My pleasure. Thank you. So, you know, I think it all started years and years and years ago, I developed a philosophy and that philosophy is learn. Earn. Return return what you’ve learned and earned them and really, you know, kind of, I don’t even know why I came up with them. I was. At the top of my career in, you know, kind of, I, you know, just very briefly; my initial career background is hotel management. So we have that travel bug know definitely in common. I lived in France, I lived in Hong Kong. I lived in Russia. And then for 11 years in London, my parents come out of textiles. And I actually got a very, very interesting job as director of marketing and sales for a British fashion brand for the last, um, you know, kind of fall for several years. But I always had this. You know this passion for charity. Um, and it’s something my parents had instilled in me. Um, I was 11 years old. Believe it or not. When I took surplus merchandise out of my parents, my mind, my father’s factory from other factories and sold it on flea market. Same, uh, free markets for, you know, for an organization that, that cared for children with cerebral palsy. Um, I mean, I was 11 years old, you know, but I was so passionate about, you know, selling, making money, giving the money away. My parents, you know, there is no spiritual aspect to my parents that they would have said, listen, you know, we need to do that. Then they just always, always, you know, reminded me how, you know, privileged we are and always pointed out, you know, that this is, you know, kind of by no, it’s more respectful incidence really, I mean, we, you know, we could have easily been born as a cockroach in Czechoslovakia- what my father always said, you know, like, but you were born, you know, kind of as a, you know, into a middle class family in Germany.
So long story short, wherever I live, I actually was involved in charitable call in charitable causes. Same particularly it became, um, you know, in, in Germany, I, you know, kind of a help, but in Germany, there is not so much, you know, kind of to be helped. Um, everything is so well taken care of from, I think my biggest, um, you know, kind of wake up call was when I moved to Hong Kong in my late twenties and I got involved, um, you know, I was director of, of rooms for a, for a big hotel for the comrade in Hong Kong, but on my Saturdays or Sundays off, we still work six days. Then on my Sundays off, uh, I became involved with an organization that took care of Vietnamese boat people and of the children of Vietnamese boat people. And I can, I mean, you know, for someone who hasn’t experienced that it’s actually very tragic, because in the early, in the late eighties, early nineties, all the countries had had, um, you know, kind of fulfilled their quotas. So boat people were living in like concentration camps in very, very, um, you know, squalor in, in, in squalor for years waiting to be, you know, um, expect created, um, into, into other countries, but it often didn’t happen. Many children were born in these camps. Um, and the organization that I, you know, joined as a volunteer, took these kids out and had the permission to take them out to the beach. And it was like, you know, one afternoon, one day, um, for a year, but it was like their holiday, you know what I mean? They were fevering towards that, it was, it was so heartwarming and it was so powerful. And I remember, you know, kind of just the excitement. I mean, the kids were just bringing, you know, they were ripping of leaves from trees, bringing them back into the, into the camp. Because there was not a single tree for like thousands of people who were living there. It was just, you know, kind of, you know, it was concrete and, and little huts. It was terrible then. And then of course, I moved to Russia from there as director of sales and marketing for two hotels. Um, and I. I became very much involved with an organization called Moscow cares. Um, and again, you know, it, you know, the need was big um, you know, there were very few people who could help, but there were some, you know, quite a few people out of the hotel industry, um, that had come together. And so we just, um, you know, broad, old towels and, you know, some pool and whatever it was, um, to, to people who really needed it. Damn then in England, you know, then from there I moved to London. And in England, I just got very quickly involved with an organization that ran charity shops. So they’re not a single housing trust. Charity shops are very, you know, thrift shops are very, very popular in England and I became, you know, whenever I wasn’t traveling was that very, you know, kind of up-market collection of ladies evening wear; so I was traveling three months. Then I was in London for three months. Then I was traveling again to all the fashion events across the world. And when I was in London, I actually volunteered my time on a Saturday as a, as a shop manager. Um, I’m at this charity shop and I, you know, all, if I look back all those experiences, you know, just, I mean, those are actually the happiest times of my life.
I was connecting the dots because it’s, it’s the children, it’s the, you know, finding the need in each place and it’s the charity shop and all of these things. And now I look at your life and it’s like all sewn together. It looks like everything that you did before has come together in this one massive project that looks like your lifestyle.
That’s that’s absolutely right then. So what happened was I actually realized, you know, what also, while living in London, now being in fashion, you know, kind of was very, I mean, it was just an amazing, amazing job. If you have watched the devil wears Prada, I have to say, well, it’s a very apt description of the fashion industry in general, but it also was very.. what I didn’t realize, even though my parents were in textiles, it’s a very shallow pursuit. Um, if I may say that and, um, so I really wondered, you know, is there, shouldn’t there be more to life than, than, you know, kind of just. A three, you know, BMW, three series convertible company car, and a two bedroom flat in Chelsea, London. And you know..
It doesn’t sound too bad. Not all that terrible-
It wasn’t bad at all. But it actually was not. I mean, you know, to, to me, the Saturday in the charity shop, you know, my days previously was Vietnamese boat people with the children, you know, it was Moscow actually, you know, gave me more then the biggest parties that I attended, you know, meeting the, the, the, the, the biggest celebrities, um, you know, through my work and doing the work. I loved the work that I was doing. I was good at it. But I wasn’t completely fulfilled on a spiritual and emotional level. And then I decided in 2005 to actually. Spend my, it came actually after a relationship breakup, where am I had been in a relationship for nine years? We had just broken up. We had always traveled around Christmas. That was what we did, you know, kind of two and a half weeks, three weeks. Suddenly I was alone for Christmas and I thought, what am I going to do this this year, Christmas? And I actually applied for a volunteer position at a children’s home here in Johannesburg in one of the worst parts of town. Johannesburg is a great city, but it has it’s, you know, kind of it’s it’s moments and some areas of, of the city are very poor and very, you know, really downtrodden name. And, um, an organization had just opened a little children’s home there. I worked my butt off for, you know, four weeks. Then I had six kids in my care, you know, from seven in the morning to seven in the evening from newborn to 18 months.
Now, you know, Gabriela, I know you don’t need to lose weight. Probably not. None of us kind of who is listening needs to lose weight, but if someone wants to lose weight, volunteer in a children’s home with six children. 12 hours a day. I lost four K you know, 4 kilo, I don’t know actually how many stones that is, but it’s a lot. It was, it was a lot. And, um, but I loved it. You know, I thought this was absolutely super. And the lady, you know, who had. Founded this organization on the last day, he said, Hey Oliver, you know, I understand you enjoyed yourself. The kids love you. You know, would you consider coming back to us, you know, longterm, full time, unpaid. And I’m like, ah, I’m spade. You know, that is a, that is a bit of a shocker, to be honest, I was 43 at the time, but I did remember my own, my own little philosophy that I had of learn, earn return. And it was very interesting what you, what you said earlier, because I really felt everything that I had done in life had kind of prepared me for this, you know, fall for this new adventure. And after quite a bit of deliberation, I said, yes, I would do it. You know, that was like six weeks later. And six months later, I moved to South Africa. Initially, you know, volunteer full time longterm for two years with that organization learned everything I could about, um, the, you know, about running an NGO, which, you know, kind of, I didn’t know much about I volunteered, but I hadn’t run one. And then in 2008 set up Hotel Hope, um, the organization that I, you know, now run three children’s homes. Um, You know, a Montessori preschool, um, three charity shops because we have that kind of philosophy of one home, one shop and, and, you know, so the shop actually generates, um, you know, quite a, quite a few, you know, quite a bit of funds for, for the, for the home. And we run a teenage crisis pregnancy intervention to help, you know, mother young mothers, not to make, you know, heartbreaking decisions of the board of aborting late stage or abandoning shortly after birth.
And that’s always my favorite stop. I’m blessed to be able to come to South Africa as often as I can through work. And I, it’s really hard to put into words. I wish I wish I could do justice to it, but the love. That somebody feels when they walk in that house is tremendous. It’s overwhelming. I could cry thinking about it. I brought my daughter there. It’s just, there’s something about it. And I think your, you and your team, you’ve done an excellent job of just selecting the most genuine, wonderful people that are really angels on earth. I’ve never seen such a, a group of, you know, I know you’ll, you’ll laugh and you’ll say, well, you’re only there for a bit. We’ll behaved, well adjusted children that have gone through tremendous, tremendous heartbreak and problems yet they’re sitting there last time I was there, you were having a birthday party for one of them. And he sat there and he was so happy with one little toy and a cake that I think was made out of fruit. Cause you guys are so darn healthy and you, you thought of everything. And I just, I would love for people to know that because, um, to me, that’s what I take away from it. And I think as. As someone who runs, um, you know, an NGO, that’s gotta be tremendously hard at a time where everybody is economically depressed at this moment. How do you keep it going when you have to fundraise and you have to keep people understanding what you’re doing and you still have need, um, how do you do that in a challenging time like this? Cause I think a lot of people who are dependent on funds and donations are having a hard time.
Yes. Yes. So now, you know what, I, I actually don’t know how I actually don’t know how it’s happening, but by divine intervention, you know, the world comes together and somehow makes it happen. Gabriela, you are the first one to know that this week we were informed, that a lady had passed away in November, 2019 and left all of her funds. To children’s charities, everything she owned. She was actually in, in social work all her life where I’m had no dependents, um, and decided to leave everything, you know, in, in, so the, the trustees of the, of the will and, you know, she had founded it if she had founded a trust, which is an extraordinary basically approached us. Um, and in this incredible time of, of need. And really, I mean, we have been double heartache because we, we also rely so much on the income from our, you know, social trading from the, you know, from the charity shops. And of course, you know, for the last 10 weeks we had to close, you know, to close the door. So there was no income, you know, all expenses were still running, you know, kind of rent and, and, uh, you know, kind of, we haven’t made anyone redundant, um, and suddenly.. you know, but I cannot tell you, you know, out of the blue, you know, comes this amazing information. Yup. You know, you have an inheritance of a person we didn’t even know!
People needed to hear that because I think, you know, it, it just goes back to the concept of when you put good out there and when you do good. It comes back to you. You don’t do it because of that, but you see that it does return back to you in some way. And I think that that is if the work isn’t fulfilling enough, when something like that happens, you just, you want to, you just kind of dropped them, look up and say, wow, you know, this is all worth it and then some.
No. That’s exactly. That’s exactly what it, what it, what it is. And it really, you know, kind of, you cannot, you cannot plan it, you know, you cannot say, you know, Oh, don’t worry. You know, kind of, I mean, we were worried. I mean, when, when COVID happened, when locked down happened, um, you know, we have crisis meeting after prizes meeting, how are we going to, you know, finance the stuff, but I really believe, I believe in those year on principles of, you know, kind of, you know, what you put out there, comes back and, you know, kind of from a, you know, the Bible actually says something, you know, they always say, you know, Oh, the Bible says. You know, you reap what you sold and many people see that as negative in a way. Ah, you know, don’t, don’t so anything negative, you know, you know, you’ll review, you reap it, but it actually, you know, kind of when you re when, when you soul love and when you saw compassion and generosity, you actually reap it to, um, you know, so, um, and I also believe exactly what you take out there.
How many children who have been part of hotel hope have now been adopted into forever homes? How many children have you helped?
So we have, well, we have helped, um, 83 children, 88, 83 children have been adopted into South African families and families abroad. Um, sadly South Africa doesn’t have an, uh, you know, kind of an adoption arrangement was America. So none of our kids have gone to America, but most of them, you know, have either stayed in South Africa or they have gone to, um, you know, to Northern Europe. Um, Yeah. And I have to say that is particularly amazing because South Africa has actually not only an orphan crisis, but also, um, an adoption crisis. So, you know, in the, in, in per year we only have like 1,144, the last actually. Um, figures that are available 1,144 adoptions. So now we have had 83, um, you know, two years ago we had out of Hotel Hope more adoptions than the entire province of Kazuo Nitel, you know, Pietermaritzburg and that is, that is absolutely amazing, you know, smaller organization, but, um, you know, and you are, I know you’re passionate about adoption them, aren’t you? Um, and so I actually, you know, I, as you know, you know, I don’t have biological children. I only have two logical children. You know, my, my, I have a 19 year old son, it’s a fellow and a 15 year old son, innocent ways. I remember.
Yes. And we’re both aging. It’s incredible, but I’m very much understand that, you know, aside from taking care of these children, you also do, you know, understand what it is to be an adoptive parent and what that new as do I, um, you know, and all of the struggles and the challenges and how difficult it can be and how ultra rewarding it is when it finally happens when you get the signature on the dotted line, everything’s sorted and it’s, it’s. Pretty much the best feeling in the world and you’re doing incredible work. How can people find you online and how can they help you to meet donations from afar?
Thank you so very much. Um, you know, we have a, we have a website which is currently under reconstruction, sorry for that. And there is a slight hiccup, so you can’t get on it, but it’s, you know, it’s um, HotelHopeMinistries.org We have a very good Facebook presence, um, you know, hotel hope. Um, and, um, you know, so people, you know, can, you know, ideally, you know, kind of find us on Facebook or send an email to Oliver@hotelhopeministries.org And it’s such a long one, not a great, not a, not a great one to write to jot down right now. But if you Google Hotel Hope Johannesburg, you will find us. And, and our contact details and really, you know, kind of people can get involved on four levels. They can pray for us. They can, you know, kind of, um, you know, they can donate, um, you know, we can, we even, we are a charity cause on PayPal, which is fantastic, so we pay no fees on PayPal and, um, all they need to do is our, you know, our merchant code is LOVE@HotelHopeMinistries as you know, very well, Gabriela, you use it so often. Thank you. So, so much for that, you know, love ministry start all goes straight into our account and, um, yeah. And, and people, you know, kind of now, now I’m adding something- people can achieve us, you know, something in their will.
No, I think it’s, again, the good goes around and, and you can’t take it with you. So if you’re passionate about a cause, and I think, you know, I think it’s important to know. I just want to leave people with understanding that, especially in South Africa at the moment, a little bit goes a very long way. So, you know, just even what you can give, can buy diapers, can buy vitamins, can buy all sorts of things that, you know, like that the critical, um, you know, elements that children need, um, you know, to thrive, you’re giving them the love and the environment, but, you know, there are things that are, that are needed, you know? Um, and just a little bit, I know for sure, very long way.
Anyone, anyone who has a child knows how expensive it is, you know, even, I mean, and that, and they don’t get cheaper when they grow older, you know, so was, was great. Pleasure. And I just want you to mention one thing. We are actually a registered 501C3. Um, um, you know, cause in the, in the U S so donations to us are either even a tax deductible, um, and we are registered through the King Goodman. I’m charitable foundation. It’s actually KB, F U S the King Baldwin and friends in the United States, um, dot org. Um, and, um, yeah, so, um, you know, if you, if you want to give in your lifetime, we appreciate it. If you want to give, not in your lifestyle, we appreciate that too.
Oh, that’s what I encourage everyone to just do a little more digging, check out the Facebook page and when the website’s up, we’ll share it again and keep doing the amazing work that you do, you’re an inspiration, and I’m glad that we were able to tell if you share your story further.
Thank you so much I’m sorry I’m talking too much. So I just wanted to let you know, actually the kids do far more for me than I could ever do for the children, them and, and, you know, I think that’s, um, yeah, I want to leave it with that.
Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to chat with you. You got it. Chat soon, thank you!