Unemployment hasn’t stopped caring woman from assisting community

Zakhel'ubomi Youth Development founder Siphosethu Nkanjeni, 33.
Zakhel'ubomi Youth Development founder Siphosethu Nkanjeni, 33.

What started as a small passion project by five friends in Mdantsane has made a positive impact on the lives of many disadvantaged youngsters in the community.

Five years after the idea to reach out to local schools and assist children in need came to Siphosethu Nkanjeni, 33, and her friends, it has become a registered nonprofit organisation that works to curb social ills such as teenage pregnancy, child abuse and gender-based violence.

When they started the project in 2019, Nkanjeni and her friends collected toiletries and sanitary towels and donated them to disadvantaged girls in schools. 

Even though the five-woman project did not work out in the long run, Nkanjeni carried the vision with her and started her own NPO, Zakhel’ubomi Youth Development, which focuses on all youth, regardless of their age. 

Nkanjeni is passionate about uplifting financially, physically and socially challenged young people to give them a fair chance at achieving their dreams.

Through Zakhel’ubomi Youth Development, she not only collects and donates toiletries, sanitary towels, food, uniforms and shoes, but holds educational talks about alcohol and drug abuse, bullying and teenage pregnancy. She also distributes condoms.

Though unemployed since October 2023, Nkanjeni’s own challenges have neither hardened her caring heart nor deterred her from caring for the youth.

She worked as a community liaison officer until her contract expired last year. 

“I don’t have any consistent funding,” she said.

“When I was still employed, I used my salary to fund this project myself.

“It’s been a challenge since I’ve been unemployed because I don’t have any official or corporate sponsors.

“Fortunately I do get a few individuals donating here and there, but I don’t donate as many items as I would love to.”

She was nominated for the Local Heroes Awards by Mandla Mapela.

“She has displayed selflessness even though she is unemployed herself. We need more people like her in our communities and they should be encouraged and given higher platforms to affect our world in a more positive way,” Mapela said. 

The good Samaritan transformed her homes garage into an office and storage space for Zakhel’ubomi Youth Development.

When she gets enough supplies, Nkanjeni also opens a soup kitchen to feed the local children. 

She said the Local Heroes prize money would help her run the soup kitchen often as children in the community often went hungry. 

“The need for the soup kitchen is even greater during school holidays because children cant get food from the feeding scheme which usually feeds them at school every day.

“They are so dependent on the scheme that it is sometimes the only reason they go to school,” she said.

She has worked with schools such as Thandulwazi Primary School, Nobotwe, Fikile Bhengu Higher Primary, Sakhile Primary School and Londolozani Primary School. 

• Nominations for 2024 may be submitted by emailing a 500-word motivation to localheroes@dispatch.co.za. Nominations must include the nominee’s name, cellphone number and email address.



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