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Dr Ray and Mrs Dora Phillips (Posthumous)

The Order of the Baobab in

Dr Ray and Mrs Dora Phillips (Posthumous) Awarded for:
Their excellent contribution to the creation of the first social-work network designed to improve the terrible living conditions of the growing population of the oppressed. They also established the South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR), one of the leading liberal institutions in the country.
Dr Ray and Mrs Dora Phillips graduated with a Bachelor of Science from Carleton College (Northfield, Minnesota, USA) in 1914 and after completing further studies at Yale University, they arrived in South Africa in 1918 as missionaries of the American Board-Congregational Church, to start a distinguished career that spanned 40 years.

Contrary to the thinking of the British colonial and later apartheid authorities that black communities were only ‘temporary guests’ in the new ‘white’ metropolis of Johannesburg, the Phillips couple based their actions on the idea that they were there to stay permanently.

For that reason, they emphasised the need for effective caring institutions and government programmes to make living conditions more pleasant and wholesome for black individuals and families, first in Johannesburg and later across South Africa.

The Phillips couple established the first school of social work in South Africa as well as the existing SAIRR, which is one of the leading liberal organisations in the country.

For the labour migrants from rural areas to the city of Johannesburg, they established the Bantu Men Community Hall for them to socialise and acclimatise to the city. Later on, the halls became a place for black communities to hold meetings and carry out wedding ceremonies.

Through a number of organisations such as the Pathfinders and Wayfarers; Young Men’s Christian Association; Young Women’s Christian Association; Gamma Sigma Club, Talitha Home for Delinquent Girls and several others, they provided the youth with positive learning and leisure activities, thereby increasing their chances of succeeding in the very hostile and unhealthy environment of the slums and segregated locations sprouting around Johannesburg.

In the pursuit of their missionary intervention, the couple created and directed a ground-breaking school called the Jan Hofmeyr School of Social Work, where they were to train for decades, generations of highly skilled male and female social workers, many of whom were later to make outstanding contributions to South Africa.

These included the late Mama Winnie Mandela, Dr Brigalia Bam, the former Chairperson of the Independent Electoral Commission, and many others who contributed to the fight against injustice and the establishment of a new democratic order.