An ex-convict and a former gangster from Duncan Village have banded together and are working at ensuring young children from the community do not follow the same paths they did.
Aphiwe Bili, 23, and Thembekile Havi, 31, have taken glue-sniffing boys off the streets in an attempt to school them about the dangers and consequences of drug use.
“As a former drug user I know it starts with sniffing glue,” said Bili.
“Then it escalates to more stronger stuff such as tik.”
Bili, a former gangster who used to sell and use drugs, said the pair had managed to assist 16 boys aged 13 to 16 off the streets.
Havi, who served time for peddling drugs, said they used a “hard approach” with the children, telling them about their past lives and where they would eventually end up if they continue sniffing glue.
“We then invite them to our child and youth care centre based in Duncan Village where we feed them and keep them busy with sports and cultural activities while making contact with their relatives,” said Havi.
He said most of the young teens were shack dwellers and their home circumstances were “discouraging”.
“Some are faced by the challenges of alcohol abuse by their parents, poverty, abuse and some were pushed to this substance by minor issues such as not having a cellphone or the latest pair of takkies. For them sniffing glue was a form of escape from their sad realities.”
When the Saturday Dispatch visited the centre this week a group of boys were seen playing cricket using a tennis ball, bread crates as wickets and a wooden plank as a bat.
While most have been rehabilitated and are back living with their families and attending school, two have gone back to their old ways.
The young boys, who cannot be named to protect their identities, said life without glue felt “good”.
A 14-year-old spoke about how he ended up collecting empty beer bottles to buy glue which cost R15.
“When I sniffed I would get high and visualise things that made me happy such as riding a scooter, but sometimes I would see scary things like snakes,” he said.
Havi and Bili said their dream was to secure enough resources and funding to take these boys on life-skills camps and develop their sports and dancing skills. “We want them to know there is more to life than their circumstances and they should not allow their current situations to determine their futures.” — email@example.com