After failing matric when she was 18 and falling pregnant two years later while doing her supplementary exams, an East London woman was ready to give up on life.
But attending a youth camp changed her life. And now Sisipho Nongqayi, 27, of Scenery Park has put that all behind her and dedicated herself to helping other young people.
Through her Futures of Tomorrow project, Nongqayi motivates youngsters and keeps them busy through recreational and educational programmes.
The six-month old Futures of Tomorrow is an arts performance club that started with only 18 teenagers. But her programme has now grown to 36 participants, only three of them boys. The youngest in the group is six years old.
Nongqayi keeps the group busy with activities like traditional dancing, music, poetry, drama, netball and art, and she assists them with their homework. She also teaches them how to deal with peer pressure.
“We have a high rate of crime here and a lot of taverns, and some of the children spend their time after school playing not far from those taverns.
“Eventually they will find interest in what happens there – that is why we have practice and do homework every day,” she said.
The Buffalo City College (BCC) education development graduate welcomes every teenager to her daily practices outside her father’s one-roomed shack at Phase 1.
Nongqayi also monitors the group’s behavioural changes, and if anyone has been victimised, she refers them to the relevant authorities.
But, just like any non-profit organisation, her biggest challenge is funding and space.
“When it is raining we can’t get much done because we don’t have space. Another challenge is not having uniforms to go and perform ,” she said.
Ovayo Tyokolo, 11, who participates in traditional dance, looks forward to practices every day after school.
“I love going to umxhentso practice. That is where all my friends are,” she said.
With the little money she gets from her father, who works in Fort Beaufort, she tries to buy the children food when they practice on Saturdays.
“But during the week I can only give those who are really needy,” she said.
Yesterday she invited Harambe, a not-for-profit social enterprise that builds solutions and innovations towards helping solve the global youth unemployment challenge, to the Scenery Park Community Hall to assist young people with drafting their curriculum vitae.
The youngsters were also registered on Harambe’s database.
Nongqayi is also a mentor at the Bumb’ingomso project, which aims to help reduce the risk and spread of HIV/Aids.
“She was head-hunted to be a mentor. She has proven that your background need not define you. She never gives up,” said Bumb’ingomso training coordinator Lindokuhle Msele. — firstname.lastname@example.org