Foundation honours kind, gentle Matthew

The Matthew Veldsman Smile Foundation committee, from left, are Khaleed Watson, treasurer; Karen Damon, secretary; Lisa Veldsman, director; Mark Veldsman, chairman; Tashreeq Davids, assistant treasurer; Teri Jacobs, human resource advisor; and Connor Deane, environment officer.

A new non-profit organisation, launched by a family in Kenwyn, plans to honour the life of Matthew Veldsman, who died at age 22, by moulding boys and young men into good citizens and role-models.

Matthew’s parents, Mark and Shelley Veldsman, and his sister, Lisa, launched the Matthew Veldsman Smile Foundation (MVSF) at Norman Henshilwood High School, on Saturday February 29.

Matthew died in his sleep in November 2018, due to a connective-tissue disorder that caused his right coronary artery to rupture.

Ms Veldsman says it came as a shock to the whole family as Matthew had been healthy and had only ever had common childhood illnesses.

“The pathologists found that he had a healthy heart, no cholesterol; it wasn’t an embolism or aneurysms; his artery just tore like a piece of paper. Matthew embodied love and kindness”, she says.

“He was kind-hearted, gentle and had respect for his elders. He was humble, he looked after his health, he loved his family and friends and because of Matthew as a role model we want to steer other boys in that mould.”

Ms Veldsman, the foundation’s bookkeeper, says they want to work with schools and boys’ homes in disadvantaged areas.

“That is one of the areas where there is a huge need and issues to be addressed, like poverty, substance abuse and behaviour.”

The focus will be on young boys but they will also help girls. The foundation plans to use character development, academic support and career guidance, health and wellness and environmental support as stepping stones to mould the youth.

And, Ms Veldsman says, they plan to raise awareness about the connective tissue disorder that cost Matthew his life.

Matthew’s father is the foundation’s chairman. He says it will be driven by the youth, including Matthew’s friends and cousins, because it is easier for young people to be role models to other young people.

But no one is excluded, and anyone can volunteer, he adds, noting that the older generation also has an important role to play in teaching and guiding the youth.

Mr Veldsman says all volunteers will be vetted thoroughly.

Lisa, 21, is in her final year studying psychology at the University of Western Cape, and she will be the director of the foundation bearing her brother’s name.

“I am taking on this position because my brother and I had a close relationship, and it’s my way of staying connected to him and carrying on his legacy in the hope of helping others to make this world a better place.”

The organisation was registered in October last year but only got its accreditation certificate on Thursday February 20. Last year, in an unofficial capacity, it did beach clean-ups and took part in the Old Mutual Big Walk.

Ward councillor Mark Kleinschmidt welcomed the launch of the organisation and promised his continued support.

Email mvsmilefoundation@gmail.com, call 067 161 3566 or visit mvsmilefoundation.wixsite.com/website to find out more about the foundation.