Born in Hillbrow to a single mother and surrounded by street gangs and crime, young Tebogo Mabye seemed destined for struggle. Fortunately, he found a safe haven at MES, a partner of Add Hope that is funded by donations that KFC customers make every day. Tebogo, and many other children like him, have been able to turn their lives around thanks to Add Hope and the organisations they work with – becoming role models for other children and breaking the cycle of violence and poverty that threatens to engulf them.
When young Tebogo and his brother discovered the MES Dinaledi Centre, they became part of the now 120 000 children that Add Hope feeds every day through feeding schemes across South Africa. MES provided the boys with a meal and a safe place after school, which kept them coming back. “When you give a child a meal, you tap into their heart,” says Tebogo. “You show that child that you care about them and you earn the right to influence that child. You won’t be able to influence a child who is hungry. Through donating funds for meals, Add Hope gave MES a ticket to get into my world, so that they could understand, love and influence me.”
MES also but invested in Tebogo’s future. When he struggled to pass grade 12, the organisation provided him with a tutor which led to him achieve a university exemption and a distinction in IsiZulu. He excelled in dance and martial arts lessons, a new passion which kept him off the rough streets. MES further assisted Tebogo to obtain a driver’s license by paying for a driving school and the application, and he now drives a MES vehicle to help the organisation further.
“It’s still a really tough life on these streets for many children,” says Tebogo. “I see that many of the kids are in gangs, the kids are doing petty crimes, many are fathers, some take drugs – they are mixed up in bad things and bad decisions. Many have dropped out of school or those that are finished school lie around with no work. I could have been one of them, but MES has helped my brother and I to change our lives.”
Tebogo now works for the MES team in Hillbrow as a co-ordinator of the youth enrichment programme and is rolling out a mentorship programme called Big Brother. “I want to be a role model to be that father figure to these kids who have absent fathers. I want to encourage them to go to school and help them to reach their potential. They just need someone to believe in them and help them through life. Someone who can show them they can do it show the children that the world is bigger than their community,” says Tebogo.
Tebogo is living evidence of the ripple effect that taking care of a young child can have. “MES taught us how to master ourselves – gave us a place that we belong and taught us the spirit of generosity. And that is the change I want to be for a child there today. I want to help those kids that are exactly like we were, before it’s too late.”