There are many youth in South Africa who do not lead as privileged or fortunate lives as others. The very thought of them being able to change their lives seems unimaginable.
Wilderness Foundation Africa aims to support these vulnerable youth through the Siyazenzela Youth Development Programme. This short term intervention programme focuses on equipping these youth with job readiness and wellness skills.
Vuyo Dube was born on 15 August 1994 in Soweto. Shortly, after his birth, his mom was diagnosed with a mental illness and he was taken to live with his aunt at the age of 5.
Vuyo speaks of his challenges he has faced in his life - living on the street and having to fend for himself. Through it all, Vuyo has held a positive attitude and has just recently graduated as a Siyazenzela graduate in Wilderness Foundation Africa’s Youth Development Programme.
Read more of his incredible story below:
“My name is Vuyo Dube. I was born on the 15 August 1994. At the age of 20 years old, my mother fell pregnant and shortly after I was born, she was diagnosed with a mental illness. She couldn’t recognise most things, except me. My dad was non-existent in my life. Up until the age of 5 years old, I lived with my mom in a shack. It was a very unhealthy way of living, as we were surrounded by pollution and couldn’t afford a bed or furniture in our place we were staying in. During the time that I stayed with my mom, I was brought up in a very Afrikaans environment and my first language became Afrikaans instead of the traditional Xhosa language that everyone else grew up with.
I was then taken to live with my aunt and started primary school. I wasn’t happy there and was bullied as a child. When I was 12 years old, my aunt decided to kick me out the house as they didn’t want to pay for my high school. That day I knew I needed to start fighting for my own life.
I couldn’t stay in the location because it was dangerous, so I ended up moving onto the streets. Life on the streets was tough. I was never into drugs or alcohol and all my earnings I made standing on the streets, I saved to buy food. Life was difficult and I was often bullied by other street children for money as they would spend it on alcohol and they knew I always saved my money.
One day a lady came up to me and asked me if I would like to join their shelter. The shelter was very kind to me and payed for my schooling to go to high school. The school I attended was 5km away from the shelter and I settled in well at school. My grades were great and I was enjoying my new school. In June of that year, I was told that the shelter was relocating and I needed to move high schools. The transition was difficult for me as everything was taught in Xhosa, which wasn’t a strong point of mine since I grew up with Afrikaans as my first language. My grades started dropping but I still managed to pass grade 8. The shelter then sent me back to the previous high school I was at because they realised this new school wasn’t working for me. When I was in grade 11, the shelter could not provide me with transport anymore and I was told I once again needed to move to a new Christian school. So in matric I was faced with not only moving to a new school but having to learn three new subjects that I had never done before. This had really struck me hard and as a result I had failed matric.
The shelter had been good to me but since I was older, they could not keep me longer and pay for my schooling. At the age of 19 years old, I found myself back on the street and since then have been looking for a job.
My mother passed away last year and so I do not have any family left.”
Tell us about your journey with WFA
“I found out about Wilderness Foundation Africa through a friend and then applied to do the Siyazenzela course.
In the beginning, I was nervous to come join the programme because given my situation I didn’t know what people would think of me but I had a goal in mind. I knew that most things in life are going to be hard and even though it may be difficult, I knew I needed to take the risk and look at what lies ahead of me.
Completing the Siyazenzela programme has made me realise that I had a lot to learn about who I am. Even now, I have gained my confidence and understanding through Siyazenzela. My biggest challenge was learning to open up to people but once I did, I started realising that opening up to others is the best way you can find support from others and it allows you to not feel so alone. I have learnt that everyone goes through challenges in life and we must learn to walk in unity with one another.
For me, I am inspired by Lwazi, our course facilitator of Siyazenzela. If I listen to who he is and what he has gone through it makes me realise that we have two choices in life. We can either choose to stay captive and say we’ve been there and now we can’t move or we can say I have been there and now I have conquered my past.
Every day I have attended this programme, I am being inspired by the amazing work Wilderness Foundation Africa is doing. There are many young people out there like me who have taken knocks in life but through Wilderness Foundation Africa we have the opportunity to change our lives for the better.
WFA reminded me that a family doesn’t necessarily have to be blood related because they have shown me what a family is like at their organisation.
Right now I feel like I’m in a different chapter of my life. Thank you Wilderness Foundation Africa.”