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Determination defeats the odds

Thabo’s (20) story is a difficult one – full of hardship and challenges that go beyond the understanding of the average Bloemfontein citizen.

Only through hard work, determination to succeed and sheer willpower did he manage to beat the odds.

Thabo was abandoned by his family when he was three years old.

He was put into the care of a foster parent who died soon after. He ended up under the uncertain care of an elderly neighbour with whom he could not stay for long.

  • When he was ten years old, he took to the streets of Bloemfontein.

He joined a posse of street kids, and was forced by the older kids to beg at the traffic lights near Mimosa Mall during peak traffic times.

In return, the older boys offered him protection and a place to live in their home under a bridge.

It was in the company of these apparent friends that he picked up the habit of sniffing glue and smoking dagga.

During this time, he battled against the cold and was faced with starvation and the fear of being attacked.

When Thabo was about 12 years old, he moved into the Kidz Care Trust (KCT) child and youth care centre in Roodewal, but struggled to adapt to the rules and routines of the centre due to his past reality of street living.

He got into many altercations with the other boys, and in the centre, which lead to violence. H ran away from the centre a few times.

His actions were a reflection of Thabo feeling like a failure because he was not being successful at school. The children’s court then ordered Thabo to be sent to the Jimmie Roos School outside Dewetsdorp.

Just as things were looking up, Thabo turned 18 and the system no longer had a place for him.

He couldn’t find work, so he had no choice but to live with his friends in a township. Before long, he resumed his drug habit.

At this time, Thabo slept on the floor of a single-room shack with one set of clothes and one blanket. That was all he owned.

Eventually Thabo approached KCT again, because he couldn’t cope with his situation anymore.

KCT decided to involve him in its youth programme.

During the course of this programme, the staff taught him how to cook and garden, and sharpened his cleaning skills and work etiquette.

They also assisted him in acquiring his identity document, which was a grueling two-year process.

When he was 19 years old, KCT signed Thabo up for an in-service training programme at the Kopano Nokeng Conference Centre.

Here he was taken under the wing of Andrea Bradfield, who gave him an opportunity to train and gain experience. Andrea was so impressed by Thabo’s performance and ambition to succeed, that she offered him casual work waitering and organising events, with the possibility of a permanent appointment.

Thabo also joined the adult-based education at the Navalsig High School and soon distinguished himself as a natural leader. In April he opened a bank account, and KCT has been helping him with financial management.

Now, at 20 years old, Thabo lives at the KCT centre, makes his own money, works toward an education and is still hungry for more success.

  • Written by James Steenkamp, a second- year student in journalism at the University of the Free State.
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