Young Life Lost


Knysna (viewed from The Heads)

Knysna is a stunningly beautiful place, and most of our blog posts include plenty of smiling youth and positive stories. Sadly, this post is different, yet we believe it provides valuable perspective on our initiatives in South Africa.


Knysna looking west

Yesterday, one of the youth Jim knows was stabbed and killed. Yibanathi was only 16 years old, and the youth who stabbed him was 18 years old, so will be prosecuted as an adult. One young life ended, another likely lost to prison, and 2 families impacted forever.

Update (August 19, 2015): Charges against the 18 year-old youth who stabbed Yibanathi were dropped by police due to insufficient evidence.


Yibanathi (April 2015)

Yibanati (ee-ban-ah-tee) was one of the boys Jim worked with at the high school where    3 youth gangs signed a truce in late April. The truce remains in effect between these 3 groups of boys. Yibanathi may not have been completely innocent in life, but he was a  good son, a likeable kid, artistic, and introspective.

Over the past few weeks, gang issues flared up at the second high school we frequent. There have been fights and stabbings, including 3 boys from one of the gangs being charged with the stabbing murder of a 22 year-old male outside of school. Allegedly, the incident pertained to a dispute over a cell phone. The boys, aged 16, 17, and 18, who we do not know, have been charged with murder.


Yibanati – standing, 5th from left with hand over face.

The vast majority of youth we have met over the past 5 years are responsible guys who never get in trouble at school, and certainly not the law, and remain focused on their education and a brighter future. Accordingly, some might argue that the path one follows in life is a choice, and it was Yibanathi who made some bad choices.

When you know the boy personally, it is difficult to be so pragmatic. Jim knew his mother, visited their modest wood home (a shack) on a few occasions, and maintained contact with Yibanathi’s mom since returning to Canada.

South Africa 2010-24

Yibanathi and his family lived in poverty. His mother is unemployed. There was no father in his life. Growing up in a township environment can easily pull one in the wrong direction, and inappropriate actions may bring trouble. Remaining safe can be a challenge. Safety and protection is one of the main reasons boys band together.

Starting Monday, the Safe Schools Project will provide 4 safety officers to patrol the school’s perimeter fence. As is common in South Africa, both high schools are surrounded by a high chain link fence topped with razor wire.

As one of our “in-the-know” friends in Knysna frequently comments, life in the township is difficult.


What We Do

“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made in the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead”. Nelson Mandela


Knysna Township


We trust you will agree that some things are difficult to accomplish without money. Although we strive to accomplish as much as possible in Africa in ways that do not require any expenditure, some of what we do requires money.


Some of the disadvantaged youth Jim mentors

What We Do

Fundamental to what we do with youth is spend time with them. We communicate with the boys about many things, and use these conversations to instil or reinforce values    (e.g. integrity) which are key to a happy and productive life. While we have no children of our own, we like to think that our approach is similar to how caring parents positively impact their sons and daughters.

Most of the youth are lacking many basic material items. The challenge is less about “what do they need?”, and more about what do they need most, and what will our resources allow us to provide. With greater resources, it is true that we could be more impactful and touch the lives of even more youth. We frequently ask ourselves “if this boy was our son, what impact would we want to have in his life and, given our resources, what material needs are we able to address?”

Cape Town-20150506-00367

township near Cape Town

We understand there is no magical solution, and are not so naive to believe that school clothes or shoes, alone, will resolve a boy’s challenging life circumstances. We also do not devote much time questioning whether Janet’s academic tutoring is making a difference. Tutoring helps. School shoes are important. Jim’s Mentorship programs make a difference. Alleviating hunger positively impacts health and concentration at school. If there is a magical solution, it entails each of these components, and more, as each is important.

Some of our programs work because of their specific nature or content, but other times they work because of the human touch. Everything we do provides an opportunity to talk, question, coach, and convey the emotional support and connection all humans desire.

The vast majority of the boys are extremely poor. The legacy of decades of oppression,        sub-standard education, and generational poverty, means the boys and their families are disadvantaged in numerous ways.

Add to this the fact that South Africa is a violent country. Harvard University violence researcher and author James Gilligan claims All violence is an attempt to replace shame with self-esteem.”


One of Janet’s high school tutoring groups

Whether it is boys who are no longer hungry and do better at school, youth who are provided an opportunity to attend college or university, or gang youth who stop fighting and start to focus on their future, change is happening.

This week a boy we met while he was in high school, who now attends college and is university-bound, said to Jim “I have spoken about you often as the man who gave me hope”.

Your donations are making a difference, and we appreciate your generosity when you enable us to help a deserving boy or young man. Thank you for helping and providing more hope.

College & University Updates



Paul completed a 2 year business studies program at TSiBA College in December 2014 and is now attending TSiBA University in Cape Town and doing well as he nears completion of year one (January to November) of a three year Bachelor of Business Administration degree. Thanks to his Ottawa sponsor, he is no longer lacking sufficient food.



Masibulele (Masi) stays at Penny and Ella’s safe house and is in grade 12. In September he will start applying to 1-2 year college programs for the 2016 academic year. During the October-November period Masi will write his grade 12 final exams.


Thomas (center)

Thomas completed a 2 year business certificate program at TSIBA college in 2012 and will graduate with a 3 year accounting diploma from Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in December 2015. He has worked so hard to reach this point. Following one additional year of study in 2016 to attain degree status, Thomas wants to join an accounting firm and seek a Chartered Accountancy designation. Thank you so much to Thomas’ very generous Ottawa supporters!



Ben continues to do very well and will soon complete his second year of a computer science degree at University of the Western Cape in Cape Town, thanks to generous and ongoing support from the Khayamandi Foundation (USA). Thank you Khayamandi !


Aphiwe (left) with his friend Kudzai

Aphiwe completed high school in December 2014 and enrolled at a college in Johannesburg to pursuing a diploma in mechanical engineering. Like so many youth we know, the journey to become educated is especially challenging since their family is rarely able to provide any financial support. It is a stressful process, and we admire Aphiwe’s determination and work ethic. Thank you to Aphiwe’s Ottawa sponsor who remains committed to his well-being.


Daniel and Pride (while visiting us in Knysna)

Daniel and Pride attend boarding school in Zimbabwe where both are completing their  2nd and final year of A-levels. Pride and Daniel are good students, work hard, and wish to attend university in 2016 if funding can be secured. Zimbabwe poses unique challenges. Thank you to Daniel’s and Pride’s Canadian sponsors, and Daniel’s Ottawa donor of a tablet.


L to R: Kudzai, Jim, Junior

Kudzai and Junior are brothers, and originally from Zimbabwe. Two terrific guys who we met a couple years ago in Knysna who commenced studying at a College in Johannesburg in January 2015. Watch these boys…as they are going to make a difference in the world. Thank you to their Ottawa sponsor who has made a big difference in their lives.



Ace continues to thoroughly enjoy the Bachelor of Education degree he commenced in January 2015 following a gap-year after high school graduation. Ace has overcome so many hurdles and challenges in life, yet he is realizing his dream. Very impressive. Ace plans to teach high school math literacy. Thank you so much to Ace’s very generous Canadian sponsor.



Robin graduated from high school in Knysna in December 2014 and recently submitted applications to 3 Bachelor of Education degree programs for the 2016 academic year. Robin wants to help address the shortage of teachers in South Africa and plans to teach social science at the high school level. Thank you to Penny and Ella for allowing Robin to stay at their safe house. Thank you for your donations, some of which provide food and university application fees for Robin, such that he may realize his dream to become educated and help his younger siblings escape poverty.



Wanga is doing well in his first year of Computer Science at the University of the Western Cape. Jim met Wanga when he was still attending high school in Knysna. Janet tutors his younger brother. Their mother and father are both deceased.

One of the most common reasons youth drop out of university in South Africa is hunger. The following email was sent to Jim from Wanga in June 2015:

“At the moment I don’t have food, the (university) bursary gave me a R2000 pick n pay (supermarket) voucher card for the first semester (February-June). The voucher was finished during May. My grandparents sent me some money during the exams and it is finished. So now I am in need of money for food and some pocket money…
Can you please help me? If you can, I am going to work during the oyster festival (July) and during December holidays I can pay you back.” (R2,000 is 2,000 South African Rand and equates to $195.00 Canadian dollars or $220.00 USD)

Thank you to the Ottawa donor of a used laptop computer for Wanga! He was thrilled. And, yes, we provided Wanga with food money in June.


looking towards knysna and Indian ocean from the township

Thank you for helping.