Current Issue
This Month's Print Issue

Follow Fast Company

We’ll come to you.

Not everybody becomes an entrepreneur to make money. In fact, most young entrepreneurs seem to be focused on saving the world, rather than on the bucks. Best case scenario is that both happen. But for Phil Lillienthal, there's no chance, because his newest ventures is a 501(c)3.

Phil was class president of my high school class. His family owned a camp, and of course he spent his summers there. As an adult, he became an attorney.Now he has come back to his roots and started another camp.

But this one's different. It is a camp for children in South Africa who have HIV/AIDS. Phil believes that the camp experience changes the lives of children, and he's out to change the lives of a country where one half of the 15-year-olds are expected to die of AIDS .Global Camps Africa (GCA) provides 10-day residential camps for children ages 10-16 years affected by HIV/AIDS in South Africa. The camp, called Camp Sizanani (Zulu for 'to help each other') is located in the mountains outside Johannesburg and is patterned after U.S. summer camps but with two main differences: it weaves life skills education throughout the camp sessions and provides ongoing support through bi-weekly Kids Clubs gatherings after camp is over. More than 700 children attend the weekly gatherings held at several locations in Soweto.

Up to six camp sessions are held each year for 10-days each for 135 children ages 10-16. Neither the children nor their families pay tuition. GCA relies on the generosity of its donors to run camps.

The camp experience provides vulnerable children with the education and skills that are essential for them to effectively manage themselves and their lives, even in difficult circumstances, and provides them with personal courage and a hope for a better future. The program offers one-on-one mentoring, tutoring and counseling in a secure environment with a foundation of trust, love and positive acceptance.

Schools, orphanages and children’s groups that have sent children to camp have seen the remarkable difference experiential education, mentoring and peer support has on at-risk youth, and word of GCA’s success is spreading rapidly. In 2007, Global Camps Africa established two additional camp programs in partnership with two local non profits: one for orphans living in one of the poorest regions of South Africa, and one in KwaZulu Natal in partnership with a job training organization in a province with the highest unemployment rate and the highest HIV/AIDS infection rate in South Africa.

Children write about how their lives have changed. Parents, caregivers, counselors, teachers and school administrators have responded enthusiastically to the changes exhibited by the children. Teachers have requested that camp counselors come to school to teach life skills courses because of the dramatic behavioral changes they see in those students who have attended camp.

So Phil has a unique promotion under way to raise money for his camps. An anonymous donor has offered to match any contribution up to $46,664. (46664 was Nelson Mandela's number when he was in prison on Robben Island, and the promotion honors Mandela's 90th birthday this year and his work for AIDS since. Mandela's own son died of AIDS in 2003.)

Fundraising for a social venture is very similar to what you have to do for a for-profit venture: you need a business plan, a marketing plan, a good team, and a passion for your goal. Phil has them all, plus the experience to make it happen. I am planning a trip to South Africa next year to visit the camps. In the mean time, if you are interested, you can email