I was not supposed to know my father, André Boyce. He was diagnosed with multiple myeloma when I was an infant but following his initial six-months-to-live prognosis, he persevered for more than 10 years and became one of my closest friends. In addition to his passion for music, my father expressed his nurturing personality by founding a non-profit organization aimed at supporting children without access to oncological treatment. He played piano and keyboard by ear, earning him a touring spot with a popular R&B group and played with afro-pop singer Salif Keita at Nelson Mandela’s 80th birthday celebration in Johannesburg.

March 21, 2017 marked 15 years since my father passed away, leading my mother and I to plan something utterly unforgettable to celebrate his short but full life. Under the Edelman Escape program, which provides select employees with a one-week mini-sabbatical and $1,500 to escape their work duties and pursue a dream, goal or experience that will enrich their lives, I had the opportunity to travel with my mom to South Africa and continue voyages commenced by my late father.

We knew we wanted to walk through my father’s footsteps in Johannesburg and travel as much of Africa as humanly possible. Not enough. We chose to funnel my father’s giving spirit with service of our own at the Emasithandane Children's Organisation (more affectionately known as Emasi) in Capetown, where we volunteered on my father’s behalf. Emasi is a home for vulnerable and at-risk children, providing housing and support to more than 30 children in the township of Nyanga.

In our time at Emasi, we learned:

  • Values Shine Through. We chose Emasi largely in part because of the dedication of a coordinator who grew up at Emasi and returned to help manage the home. Using his own experiences, he is courageously working to secure new opportunities and support for Emasi. He held the courage to literally show up differently — no longer a resident, but now a role model and leader.
  • Every Little Thing Counts. Electricity, school uniforms, porridge, protractors and soccer cleats. What do these have in common? These were some of the various items we donated through the Edelman Escape grant — everyday items for some are blessings for many. The humble gratitude expressed in return was an enormous reminder of the potential magnitude of all our actions.

There remains plenty of work to do at Emasi, and the positivity we experienced there, despite setbacks, spoke volumes. To learn more about Emasi and help support their efforts, please visit http://www.emasithandane.org.za/.

Ashia Boyce is a senior account executive, Health, New York.