IT was Mahatma Gandhi who once said we ought to be the change we wish to see in the world. Words of the low-key racist Indian reverberate in the story of how NGO Umzekelo Community Development Organisation was found.
UCDO’s founder and chairperson Fortune Shabangu grew up as the bad-influence kid your parents didn’t want you playing with. “I’m a school drop-out myself and I grew up doing petty crime with friends just to fit in and that always put me as a black sheep of the family, my community and at school. My friends’ parents didn’t want me near their kids as I was a trouble child and all that. I believe I was longing for my separated parents because I was raised by my grandmother and uncle,” says Shabangu. His mother passed away in 2011, a few months after Shabangu rekindled his relationship with her.
Seeing the need to make a turnaround in her life, Shabangu joined Siyanqoba Theatre Project as a hip hop dancer which later went into drama, poetry and music. “…we were doing prison tours showcasing talents I never thought I would, and seeing young brothers in jail opened my eyes that’s when I realised one day I want to establish an organisation that will educate young kids about social ills, crime and where the smallest things we ignore”
So in 2017 Umzekelo was born from his previous pains. “Umzekelo Community Development Organisation was established to be the voice and change of young people in all educational institutions. In schools we are seeing a lot of bullying, crime, teenage pregnancy, moral degeneration, drug abuse, school drop outs and all these things are increasing the volume of poverty in our black communities. Coming with programmes that will enhance the kids to try keep them off the streets is our main own collective objective,” Shabangu tells Tha Bravado.
Two years later, Shabangu has built a team around Umzekelo which has helped kids going through unimaginable traumas. The organization is currently on a clothing drive, for less fortunate youth which has been well received. “The reception so far has been overwhelming, with a high number of people on social media and different communities across Gauteng showing interest and endless support,” says Umzekelo’s Deputy Chairperson, Derah Manyelo. Other team members include Treasurer Reggie Majola, PR and marketing head Kenny Sekhoela as well as graphic designer Kamohelo Morobe.
“The clothes are going to be donated individually to financially disadvantaged kids, with more of the clothes going to orphanages around Tembisa mostly. Community members can also identify a kid they believe deserves the clothes and we will gladly assist with some of the donations we have,” adds Manyelo.
Umzekelo has in the past, went on a pad drive as well. “The clothing drive isn’t the first initiative under UCDO, before the clothing drive we were pushing the Sanitary Pad Drive which is an initiative aimed at collecting and donating sanitary pads to underprivileged school girls who cannot consistently afford to buy sanitary pads for themselves.”
“We do not have a cut-off date because these are ongoing problems and we are willing to tackle them till the end,” says Manyelo of both the Pad Drive and the clothing drive.
Get in touch with Umzekelo Community Development Organisation at:
082 210 9336/081 281 4265