Africa is not for sissies, and there certainly were no sissies when the Khayamandi Foundation recently returned to Knysna. The group of 14 from America worked alongside local tradespeople and youth, including 12 of the boys and young men we mentor, to complete a 4 bedroom addition to one of Ella’s & Penny’s safe houses for young children. It is always a jam-packed week when the “Americans” are in town (lol), with plenty of positive and lasting impact.
Everyone worked extremely hard under the hot African sun. This was the first real job for most of our 12 boys, but they quickly demonstrated their willingness to follow instructions and remain focused. The 12 guys included Ben, who just completed the 2nd year of a Computer Science degree and whose education is sponsored by Khayamandi, 3 former gang-involved boys who took the day off school to help, young guys who were waiting to start college the following week, and others who dropped out of high school 2-3 years ago. It was a life-altering experience for all the boys.
Rhino is 16, stopped going to school in grade 7, and cannot read. We met him in 2014 when he walked onto the Khayamandi site and worked the full week with no expectation of financial compensation. He returned for the 2016 Khayamandi week which led to a permanent job with the project’s general contractor and Rhino is now learning the skills of carpentry. Olwethu is in grade 10 and decided he also wants to become a carpenter.
Kyle developed a strong friendship with Akhona when the Khayamandi team visited in 2014 and Kyle (U.S. army medic) was treating a large cut on Akhona’s foot. This time Kyle’s wife accompanied him to Knysna such that she could meet the 17 year-old boy Kyle had grown fond of. Tears were shed, and Jennifer and Kyle continue to be very supportive of Akhona who now works for a new painting contractor.
Jim was introduced to Athi in December and Athi’s extra effort at the Khayamandi work site earned him the largest cash bonus of all the youth. Athi has been stalled in life since completing high school and we introduced him to a 1 year trade skills program called Hands and Hearts. Upon completing his week with Khayamandi, Athi applied to the skills program and was accepted. He loves the program and is now hopeful about his future.
One of the boys we met in March 2015 was recently accepted to TSiBA College and wrote the following: “Hey, what a great 1st academic week 😊 ,Thanks 4 getting me into this place, I can feel it will certainly work wonders 4 me & my future, 🙏🏿 thanks again😀”
Jim was recently introduced to Andrew who is 19 and ceased attending school in grade 9. Last week they identified possible sites for Andrew to start a car wash business catering to taxi vans in the township and, on Monday, he and Jim will acquire the supplies Andrew needs to start earning an income.
Masibulele completed grade 12 in November and commenced a 1 year business certificate at TSiBA College on January 25th. Mandla just started a 1 year certificate in social work (with sponsorship from Khayamandi) at a Cape Town College. Having lived 12 of his initial 18 years in an orphanage, it has always been Mandla’s dream to study social work and help disadvantaged youth.
Hands & Heart is an 11 month trade skills program operated by YFC Knysna which provides hands-on training in plumbing, tiling, carpentry, and welding, along with business and life skills. We believe this is one of the best programs in Knysna! Three of the boys we mentor joined the class of 2016 on January 25th and they all love it! Vogen is 17, Athi is 21, and Gavin is 23. This represents a new and promising start in life for all 3 guys.
Ntokozo continues to do well (grade 10) at the private school he attends, thanks to sponsorship from Khayamandi. While he was unable to work at the safe house project due to school, Ntokozo joined the Khayamandi team for dinner on their final night. Ntokozo is Captain of his school chess team and recently completed peer counselling training.
Life in the townships is difficult and our friends who are involved in social-betterment projects are fond of saying that Africa is not for sissies.
Since our previous blog post, one more boy Jim knew was stabbed and killed, and another almost died from stab wounds. Jim met the 17 year-old who was killed just 2 weeks prior to his death. He dropped out of school in grade 10 and was scheduled to work with the Khayamandi team as the next step in his new start in life.
Buntu is 17 and in grade 10. He is a good student, responsible guy, and joined our Bulele mentorship group in December. Buntu was stabbed mid-January during daylight hours less than 1 kilometre from his home. He required emergency surgery.
Buntu (far right in striped shirt) is now doing much better, and returned to school this past week. However, growing up in the township is not easy.
“Schools Reflect Society they do not change it. The danger to our society is maintaining the myth that the miseducation of millions for over half a century merely results in personal tragedies.” Dr. Martin Haberman.