By: Zama Khumalo
From very humble beginnings, Siyanda Calvin Ntenga has worked very hard not only to transform his own life but to extend his generous hand to those even less fortunate than he is. He has made it his personal mission to bring dignity to hundreds of rural learners in poverty stricken schools, by donating his own personal brand of school shoes.
Coming from the outskirts of Esikhaleni, near Richards Bay, Ntenga decided that it was best to leave his home and head to Durban because the dire situation and he needed a way out. Coming to Durban was the best decision that he took as he gained more opportunities and widen his horizon within his life, where the Ntenga Foundation would be formed.
“When I came to Durban to do my tertiary studies, I was studying Mechanical Engineering and I needed something that would gain me an extra income and photography was the solution. The name of my photography business was called “Next level” Ntenga says. As time went by, indeed photography gave him the extra income that he needed. However, something within him told him that he should make a difference in the lives of others, as he knows the feeling of not having proper school shoes. To create a legacy that would impact the lives of various school children who are at a primary school level.
Bit by bit, Ntenga would personally buy school shoes and post it up on social media, which sparked the attention of many. As he has previously worked at Transnet, they were highly interested in his cause to a point Transnet created a campaign called “Donate a Toughies”, whereby everyone from Transnet would buy or donate money to buy Toughies. They donate Toughies school shoes to Primary School children within Kwa-Zulu Natal (KZN).
Seeing that he cannot have everything donated sorely to him, it was there Ntenga decided to open a non-profit organisation, which is how the Ntenga Foundation originated. It would make the life of the company easier, as Ntenga prefers donations rather than money.
Through the many donations of school shoes, Ntenga noticed that companies would only offer a limited number of school shoes, Ntenga took the decision to make his own brand of school shoes to donate to as many schools as he wanted.
The biggest challenge that the foundation is currently facing is gaining the support of private sectors. Ntenga feels that getting the correct assistance from corporate companies will elevate the foundation to the right direction. At the moment, the Foundation uses it’s own financial resources to get the school shoes and most importantly, on time because it is of the essence.
The idea that came about for the Ntenga Foundation race, was that there needed to be a way for the general public to enjoy themselves while the foundation would be collecting money for school shoes. This event has become so popular for the past 4 years, that there is a demand for it to be taken place twice a year. His biggest wish would be that school children receive shoes and not face any form of embarrassment because of their circumstances.
For Mandela month, the foundation has partnered up with eThekwini Municipality and South African National Council (SANTACO) will be donating 3000 school shoes. In another project, a total of 2300 Ntenga school shoes will be donated, from the 2300, the foundation has partnered up with uShaka Marine who will identify the school in need of the shoes which 1000 will be donated. The foundation will go to Zululand to donate the rest of the 1300 school shoes, as poverty is extremely high in that area.
Aside from running the foundation, his major hobby is running. To the point that he has even taken part in the Comrades marathon and completed it twice. His preference when it comes to friends is pretty simple; he loves being around old people because he feels that older people give powerful wisdom and guide him to the right path in life. “All of my friends are older than me; I don’t have younger friends because I know that I won’t be able to gain the same depth of information as I would with an older person”.
If anything Ntenga is grateful for is the support he has received from his family for his foundation. “The support is extremely amazing and I could not ask for anything better. My mother even makes sure she creates time for the foundation because another thing is that the name of the foundation is a family name, everyone celebrates it and lives off the legacy that has been created”. Ntenga says.
As the late “Father of the Nation” Nelson Mandela once said “Do not judge me by success, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again”, certainly a mandate Siyanda Calvin Ntenga has lived up to and will maintain till forever.