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South Africa, 23 March 2016: A brighter future beckons through Isibindi

© UNICEF South Africa/2016/Reddy
(L to R) Ncumisa and Siphokazi supporting each other.

23 March 2016 – As one leaves the city of East London on South Africa’s southern coast, the winding gravel road is a reminder of the large swathes of South Africa that are still rural and in which the challenges of rural poverty are real.

Near the top of a winding road, is the small, neat house, with a large yard, belonging to 17-year-old Siphokazi Adams (“but I will be 18 soon,” she adds). Tall and lean with an infectious energy and laugh, it is hard to picture this young woman, who dropped out of school in 2013, as being in what she describes as a “dark space”. The child of a domestic worker, Siphokazi admits to being exposed to unhealthy substances and feeling grief following the passing away of her father.

It was during this time that she was approached by Ncumisa, a child and youth care worker from the National Association of Child Care Workers (NACCW). Ncumisa noticed this confident, though troubled, young woman, approached her and encouraged her to visit the Safe Park. Ncumisa then made a point of visiting Siphokazi every day to encourage her to return to school and to reconcile with her estranged mother, an effort in which she succeeded.

The child and youth care workers then arranged for Siphokazi to join the Young Reporters Network, a UNICEF-funded initiative that trains young people use radio to report on issues facing their communities. “I think I was chosen because I am talkative,” exclaims Siphokazi as she describes how she gained skills in how to interview people and how to become more confident and listen to other views.

Through regular counselling and advice, including the provision of study guides and homework assistance at the Safe Parks, Siphokazi is now back at school and completing Grade 12. Furthermore, she and her mother now have a much healthier relationship thanks to the counselling skills of Ncumisa which she gained through Isibindi. “Ncumisa encourages me,” explains Siphokazi. “She comes to my door at 6am every single morning, she is my pillar of strength and my mother in so many ways.”

Ncumisa says that she saw potential in this confident young woman so she spoke to the Principal of Siphokazi’s school and convinced him that this was a student worth giving another chance to. Pledging his support, the Principal also pledged that he would call Ncumisa if Siphokazi does not attend school. The commitment has paid off and in 2017, this determined, former school-drop out plans to apply to go to university.

The result is that Siphokazi, according to Ncumisa, has “become responsible and cares about her future.” These days, Siphokazi volunteers at the nearby Safe Park and teaches and helps organise concerts for the children who attend the parks and who have very few opportunities for entertainment. It’s a role that she clearly relishes in as she describes the safe park as a space where “they don’t shout, they are constructive, they show support and they never judge.”

For her, Isibindi’s impact is wider than on young children as she speaks of her friends in high school who have come to the Safe Park and who have since been able to turn their lives around for the better.

As a child care worker in this economically impoverished community, Ncumisa sees the daily reality of young lives ruined by substance abuse, violence and poverty and does her bit, through the Isibindi programme, to prevent and mitigate the effects on children, She notes that “without Isibindi, many more children would suffer.:

Showing us a UNICEF schoolbag that she received three years ago, and still uses, Siphokazi bids us farewell. As she closes the little metal gate, she adds that she “really wants to thank UNICEF and the child care workers because I have gained so many skills and so much more, I would be nothing without Isibindi.”

 

 
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