Tshedi Mholo - devoted to children in need
by Magda Naude
Johannesburg, South Africa: 13 July 2010 - Tshedi Mholo, UNICEF Celebrity Advocate in South Africa, cups her hands around a mug of steaming hot chocolate on a very cold winter morning in Johannesburg. It is less than 48 hours after Spain conquered Netherlands in the final match of the 2010 FIFA World Cup that was held in South Africa during June and July. Most South Africans are still high on the euphoria of the biggest sporting event being hosted in the country.
Tshedi has just returned from a concert in Kimberley where she performed as lead singer of the popular, award-winning South African music group, Malaika (Arabic for my angel). It was one of several appearances for the group during the World Cup period.
Tshedi has been a UNICEF Celebrity Advocate since 2006. For this petite mother to 6-year-old daughter, Kamogelo, life is all about others and how she can make a difference to the experiences of those around her.
“UNICEF gave me a platform that opened opportunities to make a difference in children’s lives. I want to be the voice of children who need attention, who are lonely, who are disabled, and who do not have anyone caring for them. I want them to feel the love and acceptance that I experienced from my family as a child,” she said.
Tshedi’s love and concern for the well-being of children comes naturally. She grew up in a rural village in the Northwest Province of South Africa. Her mother was a school teacher who taught Tshedi and her three siblings that caring for vulnerable children was the right thing to do. Charity started at home; the Mholo household often served as a caring and loving refuge where other children in the community received life’s basic needs such as a bath, clean clothes and food, including a good measure of love, care and acceptance from Tshedi’s family.
Tshedi is blessed with the gift of cheering up those around her. At a very young age she sang and danced and encouraged other children to join in. She organized rehearsals for the children at various churches in the area, exposing them to the positive attention that every child needs.
After finishing school, Tshedi followed in her mother’s footsteps and became a teacher. She taught grade 6, 7 and 8 pupils at a high school in Soweto. She enjoyed connecting with the pupils and playing a role in preparing them for life. “My mother taught me to be sensitive to the emotional needs of others, particularly children, and to spot when something was wrong. I am so glad I was able to use that knowledge in my own teaching,” she said.
Although Tshedi replaced teaching with a career as a professional singer and performer, she is still very aware of the needs of children. In support of a UNICEF child protection awareness campaign during the World Cup, she volunteered as a voice over artist for radio public service announcements that were broadcast on South African radio stations in July.
“As UNICEF ambassador I want to do so much more,” she said. Tshedi has big plans of being more visible and making a tangible difference to vulnerable children. She is developing a motivational programme for children that she wants to take on the road, visiting shopping malls and communities to teach children about taking responsibility and becoming involved in society.
Tshedi takes her parenting role very seriously. “I want my daughter to know who and what she is and that she can be anything she wants to be. My philosophy is: know yourself; be your own best friend; be the first version of yourself and not the second version of someone else. Understand the simple things in life.”
On keeping children safe, Tshedi’s practical advice to parents and caregivers is to take regular photographs of their children – or at least once a year on their birthdays. Should a child go missing, a recent photograph can help the authorities to find the child.
Tshedi is proudly South African. “In general, South Africans are caring, giving people. We must encourage this positive quality so they can give more to relieve poverty and make the world a better place for children.”
She also believes that the media should play a bigger role in showing the realities of our society. Television dramatizations of real-life stories can encourage people to open their hearts and contribute in ways that will address poverty. “We must not just think about today. We must plan and conserve for the future.”
Amidst her very busy schedule as business woman and professional singer, Tshedi also cherishes quiet time at home with her daughter or on her own, but she never stops thinking about ways to help the vulnerable children of South Africa.