Three read­ers share how they man­aged to turn their lives around af­ter find­ing them­selves des­ti­tute.

Bona - - Contents - By Amanda Mtuli & Fundiswa Nk­wanyana

Three read­ers on over­com­ing liv­ing on the streets


I was born in a small town called Vic­to­ria West in the North­ern Cape where I lived with my fam­ily. Fi­nan­cial dif­fi­cul­ties drove my grand­mother to work in Cape Town. She did not visit nor stay in touch, and we were wor­ried. So, my par­ents and I packed up and went to look for her. We found her in Wyn­berg, job­less and home­less. She had lost her job due to ex­ces­sive drink­ing. By the time we found her, we had also run out of money and were un­able to go back home.


I was four years old when we started liv­ing on the streets. And, the older I got the more I be­came aware of my sur­round­ings. Peo­ple al­ways stared at us when we walked through the streets with our trol­leys. A typ­i­cal day in­cluded rum­mag­ing through rub­bish bins for any­thing of value that we could take to the scrap­yard in ex­change for money. When I started school at Ros­mead Pri­mary in Clare­mont, my par­ents would walk with me and then go on with their day. For most of my pri­mary school days, my mother worked as a do­mes­tic worker while my dad held odd jobs in be­tween. Af­ter school, I would do my home­work on a bench op­po­site the fac­to­ries where we had set­tled; our spot. My par­ents would re­turn in the evening. Then my dad would make a fire and mom would cook. Af­ter sup­per we would go to sleep. At this point, my grand­mother was liv­ing in an old age home.


Colleen Lewis, who ran a soup kitchen for the home­less, in­vited us to a church called St. Stephen in Clare­mont.

When I was 13 years old, my mother des­per­ately wanted me off the streets be­cause she was wor­ried that men would no longer see me as a child. One day, Colleen told my par­ents that a fam­ily was will­ing to take me in. I re­mem­ber my mother telling me the news; I was so ex­cited. I was fi­nally go­ing to sleep in my own bed and room, and open a fridge for some yo­ghurt or juice. The best part was that this was my Sun­day school teacher’s fam­ily. I felt so re­lieved and over­whelmed be­cause I knew them al­ready. A week later, I moved in with the Wil­liams fam­ily. I was in grade 7 at the time, and it was a huge ad­just­ment men­tally, emo­tion­ally and phys­i­cally. The Wil­liams fam­ily did their best at pre­par­ing me for my new life with them, and al­though I wasn’t liv­ing with my par­ents any­more I still vis­ited them on the streets. I also re­ceived a bur­sary from the Spirit Foun­da­tion which paid for my high school ed­u­ca­tion. Af­ter ma­tric, I stud­ied a na­tional diploma in en­trepreneur­ship at Cape Penin­sula Uni­ver­sity of Tech­nol­ogy and grad­u­ated. I now work as a pol­icy ad­min­is­tra­tor for an in­sur­ance com­pany. My fa­ther died in De­cem­ber 2008, and my mother now lives in Philippi town­ship with her cousin.

Liv­ing on the streets taught me not to judge peo­ple. I’m grate­ful to God, my par­ents and ev­ery­one who has pos­i­tively con­trib­uted to help­ing me be­come the per­son that I am to­day. All their ef­forts, love and sup­port car­ried me through it all. I am now a mother, and live a happy life with my daugh­ter.

Melowdy Louw (29) lived on the streets of Clare­mont, Cape Town, with her fam­ily for 10 years be­fore an­other fam­ily took her in.


In 2008, I was liv­ing in Jo­han­nes­burg and happy to grad­u­ate with a de­gree in mar­ket­ing from the Uni­ver­sity of the Wit­wa­ter­srand. I im­me­di­ately got a job as a con­tent pro­ducer for the sports tele­vi­sion chan­nel, Su­per­Sport. But, I was re­trenched af­ter the FIFA 2010 World Cup. How­ever, I re­mained op­ti­mistic be­cause I be­lieved that my de­gree and work ex­pe­ri­ence would help me get an­other job soon. Around the same time, I met and fell in love with a man who would later be the fa­ther of my child.


I strug­gled to find a job, and not hav­ing a source of in­come was emo­tion­ally drain­ing. I found my­self stuck in an abu­sive re­la­tion­ship with the fa­ther of my child. I didn’t want to go home in Nel­spruit and be a bur­den to my fam­ily. So, I stayed and en­dured the phys­i­cal abuse be­cause my daugh­ter and I had nowhere else to go. It got so bad that in Novem­ber 2013, I was ad­mit­ted at the Hill­brow Gen­eral Hospi­tal. It took a month for me to heal. Fur­ther­more, I was suf­fer­ing from se­vere de­pres­sion. My mother took care of my daugh­ter while I was in hospi­tal, and this gave me time to fo­cus on get­ting bet­ter. My sit­u­a­tion was dire, and in Jan­uary 2014 I was re­ferred to the Frida Hart­ley Shel­ter for abused women and chil­dren.


Even though I was in dire straits, I still didn’t want to be a bur­den to my fam­ily. My daugh­ter and I re­ceived a warm wel­come at the shel­ter. I also re­ceived coun­selling, and my daugh­ter at­tended a day-care cen­tre on the premises while I was out job hunt­ing. The sup­port I re­ceived was very help­ful, and in 2015 I found a job at a call cen­tre. I then moved into a back­room in Soweto, and my daugh­ter went to live with her fa­ther. This was very hard for me, but I knew that I had to get back on my feet to take bet­ter care of her. A home­less man that I had met when I was at the shel­ter asked for my CV. He wanted to give it to a man that worked at a ra­dio sta­tion who of­ten gave him food. This led to me get­ting a job as a creative writer for two ra­dio shows. I worked hard and man­aged to get pro­moted to be­ing a con­tent pro­ducer. My fi­nances were much bet­ter, and my daugh­ter came to live with me. Last year, I de­cided to move to Dur­ban for a fresh start for the both of us. I have an amaz­ing job, my daugh­ter is happy and I’m liv­ing the life that I al­ways dreamt of. I’m glad that I never gave up, and I’ll for­ever be grate­ful to the shel­ter that em­braced me with­out any judge­ment.

Ntombikayise Sally Du­misa (31) stayed at the Frida Hart­ley Shel­ter in Jo­han­nes­burg for over a year af­ter be­ing re­trenched and leav­ing an abu­sive re­la­tion­ship.


I was born into a poverty-stricken home, and raised by a sin­gle mother in Se­bo­keng town­ship, Vaal. We hardly had food to eat; I hated my life. When I was 11 years old, I wanted to get away from all the poverty, and de­cided to run away. I be­lieved that I was help­ing my mother, and that I would cre­ate a bet­ter life for my­self.


I was told that life is bet­ter in the city, and I went to live on the streets of

Vaal CBD. As soon as I ar­rived, the other street kids wel­comed me. They taught me to how beg, showed me where to sleep and how to sur­vive. Older boys of­ten came to bully us by forc­ing us to help them do petty crimes on the streets. When I could, I ran away from them be­cause I pre­ferred smok­ing glue and beg­ging for food and money at the traf­fic lights. Life was tough, and there were times when I would go back home to spend a few days be­fore go­ing back to the streets. Dur­ing those days I would miss smok­ing glue be­cause it made ev­ery­thing dis­ap­pear; I was ad­dicted to it.


At 16, while I was beg­ging, I met a man whom I be­lieve was an an­gel. He told me that God in­structed him to save me. At first, I re­fused his help but he in­sisted and kept com­ing back. I even­tu­ally ac­cepted be­cause he kept telling me about the grace of God, and it re­minded me of my mother who was a de­voted Chris­tian. He took me to a so­cial worker, and that was the last time I saw him; I wish I had taken his num­ber. I was placed at the Turn­ing Point Home in the Jo­han­nes­burg CBD, which is a shel­ter run by the St. Ge­orge’s Church. The teach­ings of the church in­spired me to be­come a Chris­tian, and my life changed for the bet­ter. I stopped smok­ing glue and went back to school. Af­ter ma­tric in 2015, I en­rolled at the HTA School of Culi­nary Art and grad­u­ated the fol­low­ing year with a level 2 patis­serie diploma. I baked and sold bis­cuits to make ex­tra money, and to give back

Anele Al­fred Nqayi (28) ran away from home, be­came a street kid and even­tu­ally lived at the Turn­ing Point Home Shel­ter un­til the age of 20.

to the church and com­mu­nity. At 20 years old, I moved out of the shel­ter with a qual­i­fi­ca­tion and job. Over the years, I’ve worked at Jo­han­nes­burg’s pres­ti­gious ho­tels such as The Saxon Ho­tel, Radis­son Blue, Hil­ton Ho­tel in Sand­ton and LaPlaya Beach & Golf Re­sort in the US. I was once a street kid, and to­day I’m the proud founder of The Gourmet Eats, a pop-up restau­rant busi­ness that I’m fo­cused on grow­ing. My mother still lives in Se­bo­keng, and I hope that my story will in­spire oth­ers to be­lieve in them­selves.

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