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Thandiswa Zazini sows seeds of hope in Ndevana community

Thandiswa Zazini showcases the intricate beadwork made by members of her Rise Up Organisation.
Thandiswa Zazini showcases the intricate beadwork made by members of her Rise Up Organisation.
Image: SUPPLIED

Local Hero nominee Thandiswa Zazini, 38, recognised the need to help her community in Ndevana after the lockdown left young adults without jobs.  

Zazini formed the Rise Up Youth Development Project to combat rising crime rates, drug abuse and unemployment in the Ndevana rural community in 2021.

She said: “I want young people to stand up for themselves. I’m honoured by this nomination — I’m over the moon!” 

Zazini was left jobless in 2020 after months of unpaid salaries left her no choice. 

“Since the pandemic, many of us had to leave because we could not afford rent or a livelihood.

“If it were up to me I would recruit all the young people who are not working in my community.”

Instead of being idle, Zazini initiated a food parcel drive through Facebook in 2020 . 

“We were just a group of young people trying to help our community with food parcels.

“We started helping people during the Covid-19 lockdown because we saw that many young people were sitting at home doing nothing and most of them started to use drugs and alcohol — we started working on it.”

Zazini started Rise Up with a group of 15 men and women who shared the same passion for their community. 

“We went door-to-door trying to bring our youth together. Most of us are between 18 to 25 and unemployed.”

Their office is the storeroom of the Ndevana High Primary School which provided the first plot of land for the start of their small food garden.

The NPO planted oats, cabbage, beetroot, onions, and green peppers in February and have since been given access to two other schoolyards for future farming. 

Zazini said the biggest challenges were water and piping.

Members walked 10km from the school to fetch water in buckets and containers. 

“We have approached the principal and student governing body to get involved in the garden because we can see the students don’t get enough nutrition.” 

A major concern for Zazini was funding, relying on small donations of “R10 or R20 here or there” for supplies. 

“I pay for what we need right now. We don’t get salaries and hope to make money by selling produce so  people can put food on their own tables.”

She said the group used YouTube tutorials to learn beadwork because “no-one would teach us”. 

“We taught ourselves by watching videos online on how to stitch and turn. So far we have made three necklaces, but when we are perfect we will do more.” 

The group was an ongoing workshop on entrepreneurship and creative problem-solving.

“If we are not in the garden we sit and talk about the challenges we face as young people and motivate each other through our struggles.

“I am looking for people to guide us and teach us about life and how to cope with challenges.”  

The NPO plans to sell beadwork and also learn to design and sew clothing.

Unakho Nkunzi who nominated Zazini said the initiative was amazing. 

Nkunsi said: “The aim is to keep the youth off the streets so they don’t engage in unsavoury activities.

“They have planted oats in the food garden which is the first organisation to do so in the Ndevana location.

“I nominated her as my local hero because of the wonderful work she is doing.” 

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