Mary Miyata brings a global professional background and an insurmountable passion for humanity to CAAP’s Executive Director seat. Having left California in 2002, Mary followed her dream of helping children with AIDS in Africa by providing free art therapy classes. Prior to this, she taught gifted children in California for nine years. She holds a Life Certificate. After teaching, she had a successful career in buying and selling high-end commercial properties and negotiating leases for major law and entertainment corporations in Los Angeles and New York. Following a strong interest and curiosity in Africa, Mary moved to South Africa to support its vulnerable children.
Initially, she volunteered full-time from 2002-2005 at Nazareth House, a 105 year old non-profit organization in the Western Cape at the tip of South Africa. At Nazareth House, she created a calendar with the HIV/AIDS orphan kids’ self-portraits that sold internationally to raise funds for this organization. During this time, she provided art therapy to over 1,000 children in four rural communities such as Khayelitsha (Nazareth House) and from 2002-2007, she worked in Somerset West (Imibala Trust).
Later she published a photo documentary entitled Township Life, on the people and customs of the Western Cape’s shanty towns. The book was wildly successful in South Africa and will soon be available in major book stores in the U.S. as a way to garner attention and support for these children’s plight.
Outside of her volunteering endeavors, Mary stood as the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation’s Corporate Fundraising Manager from 2006-2008. Her valuable role at The Foundation secured over R1,000,000 to further the organizations work in treating, preventing, and researching HIV in the Western Cape. Lauded by the public, particularly The Archbishop himself, Mary has been awarded Desmond Tutu’s own personal gratitude for her efforts at The Foundation.
In 2010, Mary initiated the pro-bono services of a top South African law firm, Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr, and was successful in 2012 in receiving the registration of Children’s AIDS Art Programme, a South Africa Trust. After moving back to the United States in 2007, she is now running two non profit corporations.
Over the past twenty years, my passion for working with the HIV/AIDS orphan children in South Africa has given way to the Children’s AIDS Art Programme (CAAP), which is built upon my goal to help these infected and affected children attain healthy, happy, and successful lives.
These incredible years working with the children consisted of living in South Africa full-time for five years, and then returning to further my efforts from San Francisco.
To ensure the fulfillment of our organizational goals to help the children, I have worked daily for the past sixteen years in the United States as Executive Director/Founder of CAAP. I am also the Founder/Trustee of CAAP, a South Africa Trust.
Each year, I spend thirty days in the township of Philippi (outside of Cape Town) connecting face-to-face with my staff, children, and donors.
The best part of my life has been the efforts that have affected the children. I have experienced their beautiful faces, changing lives, and their hard work first-hand. This has allowed me to enrich the children’s lives, as well as provide hope for a better future through the prospect of their higher education. The great photographer Robert Capa, who shot some of the most iconic photos of the Second World War, put it this way: “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough. The message is that if you want to have a deep impact on what matters to you, invest yourself fully.
Get close. This means moving beyond approaching an issue through the screen on your laptop or phone, or the filter of someone else’s interpretation, and instead finding a way to get to know the individuals whose lives are impacted.”
CAAP has reached over 3500 children and adolescents since 2002. Now half of our time is spent on higher education and job placement for our adolescents. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your contributions!