Programme puts needy kids in mentorship

Kamogelo Seekoei

Kamogelo Seekoei

No person is ever alone, so the adage goes, and this rings true for many children who are on the Big Brother Big Sister South Africa programme.

This is a programme that helps orphans and other children at risk receive mentorship from volunteers.

The initiative, which was started in South Africa in September 2000, was imported from abroad.

Shermana Govender of the programme says it has been in existence for more than 100 years overseas, and that it is a tried-and-tested initiative that helps develop children in need.

"We saw a lack of mentorship programmes in the country and many children who did not have anyone to care for them and then decided to import this programme."

Bafana Kheswa, 16, is one of many children in the programme who, because of the mentorship he receives, has a fresh outlook on life.

Bafana is the youngest child in a child-headed household in Lenasia, Johannesburg.

He says the programme and his mentor have brought positive thinking to his life and he now wants to pursue his dreams.

"I have always wanted to be a scientist but those dreams were shattered for a while, but I think they are possible."

Bafana, whose mother died in 2005, says he never knew his father and that devastated him.

"I felt lonely most times, but because my mentor understands me things are better now."

Eric Molopi, 28, has been mentoring Bafana for five months and says the experience is fulfilling.

"It does not only work for the child but for me as well. I have seen a lot of difference in him since we met."

Molopi says it is his responsibility to help change the way his little brother thinks.

"I have to encourage him and show him that he can be what he wants to be."

But the relationship is not just about serious issues, it is also about going out to shopping malls and game arcades to have fun.

Yet the programme does have its pitfalls, as another mentor, Nombulelo Mpendu from Soweto, Johannesburg, can testify.

Mpendu has been on the programme for five months and mentors a 16-year-old boy.

She says when she first met the boy, he was negative about life and his family.

"But I had to show him that family is important regardless of who they are."

Mpendu has her own children but says she feels attached to her little charge.

"I have given him books to read because I want him to be motivated. It is a process and a journey but there is light at the end of the tunnel," she said.

To join the programme Govender said an applicant has to be of a certain calibre.

They have to be older than 18 and be in a healthy mental and physical condition. Applicants should also provide proof of identity and a reference letter.

The applicant then goes through a screening process, which includes an interview and training, to determine whether they will be fit to mentor a child.

"There are five stages of the screening process and an applicant can be rejected. We have to be responsible in selecting mentors," says Govender.