Seven young people had the time of their lives this weekend when a generous pilot took them on their first flight.
Out of his own pocket, Sipho Mangesi paid for a group of seven John Bisseker Secondary School pupils to board a ZS-LVX four-seater for a 15-minute trip over East London’s coastline.
It cost him R1500 an hour to have the aircraft at his disposal, but he said it was a small price to pay if he was changing lives.
Charmaine Fourie, in Grade 12, could not stop beaming after her flight.
“I was really scared at first, my legs are actually still shaky. It was fun though. I don’t know where I would have got this opportunity had it not been for Mr Mangesi,” Charmaine said.
Her classmate, Bathandwa Hulushe, was so inspired by the 15-minute trip that she is now considering following in Mangesi’s footsteps and training to be a pilot after school.
Since 2013, Mangesi has been using his spare time visiting schools across the province, teaching pupils about career opportunities in aviation.
“I go around to schools in disadvantaged communities to motivate and inspire young people, while at the same time exposing them to the idea of a career in aviation,” Ngqamakhwe-born Mangesi said.
“This time I decided to give them a practical idea of what it all entails.
“Being from a rural area myself, I was heartbroken to find that I was the only black student at flight school, as if our people aren’t smart enough to do this, when actually the problem is that these opportunities are not presented to them.
“I am doing this because I really want to see more black faces in the aviation industry. I was blessed enough to have received this opportunity, and now I want to be a blessing to someone else.”
Mangesi chose John Bisseker Secondary School in Parkside because he had close ties with the school and the area.
“As a past pupil, I know all the struggles faced by the pupils there,” he said.
“For me it’s not pleasant bumping into former classmates, seeing nothing has come of their lives. I want to change that by giving young people the hope that their current situations need not define their future.”
John Bisseker teacher Thomas Vadavarayil was there to support his pupils.
Vadavarayil applauded Mangesi for taking the time and effort to give back to his old school.
“Some of these kids see the future as very bleak. By doing this, Sipho is motivating them and introducing them to a new experience. This way they will be encouraged to dream bigger.” — firstname.lastname@example.org