Nonkululeko (center) with vulnerable kids during make your mark festival at YMCA PMB

Nonkululeko is a young lady aged 26 years old, originally from Bulwer community one hour drive from Pietermaritzburg town. In childhood life, recalls grandmother who raised them together with small her sister because their mother used to live in Pietermaritzburg town where she worked. Their grandmother was doing everything she could to make them feel happy and special. Even though they were not financially stable, grandmother made that they had a happy childhood.

After high school, she moved to Pietermaritzburg town that got a chance to stay with her mother full time. Unfortunately her mother got another job in Bulwer, so she left them in hands of their aunty, who kept them in safe environment. Their mother used to come bi-monthly basis to check over them. 

From early childhood she knew they had a father but as per their life experience they felt that their father was not actively involved in their life, this is because he never bothered to take care of them. The fact is, they knew where they could find him but they felt that their father never wanted to be involved in their life anymore maybe because of alcoholism. She says they have never seeing him sober, because was always drank. He was only their as a person not as a dad.

After finishing matric, she was not certain what to pursue in career. Hospitality was in her mind but she didn’t know what was involved with it. Her mother was keen for not letting her do just a course for sake of doing it, but to be driven by her inner self and to understand what she wanted to become. So her mother refused to pay for her that course. Then she went to university to enquire more about available courses where she came back with lots of papers for sports management to show her mother. Her mother declined that course because she was not knowing what it was all about, when asked she said was only going to find out after registration. She appreciates her mother for letting realize and understand the environment she come from, and to be certain of what she wants to become in life. Her mother wanted her to be aware of what she wanted to study and that forced her to see the good part of her mother been keen with what she wants to be.

Nevertheless, she got a chance to go for a free career exhibition in Durban. Where she felt out of place and bored. They were explaining more careers but what drew her attention was the social work explained by one of the facilitators. She reflected when they were young they used to see women social workers come at their home to ensure children are treated well at home. Now from this she went home with something to convince her mother she wants to be a social worker because would like to empower other people. The mother now agreed with her opinions that made to start university degree for social worker and paid for her school fees. 

Career plan is to continue more with youth work where she is planning to do honors degree in youth work because been involved with YMCA Y-Justice for one year now, has taught her a lot in terms of empowering vulnerable youths. She joined YMCA as a volunteer but now is a fulltime staff. She is more in love with youth work and now she wants to acquire more knowledge by learning more skills to deal with youths challenge and about facilitating youth groups.

She describes her mother been a role model not just because she is her mother but because she is very strong. She ensured they had a safe environment when they were growing up. Nonku chose the right direction because of her mother’s advice and how she stood with her since childhood. She wants to be like her mother, to give the same advices to everyone their mother used to give them. This is because it doesn’t matter where you come from and doesn’t matter who was raising you as a child, because as a person you can be whoever you want to be.

She appreciates been a full time social worker at YMCA Pietermaritzburg because it is a great platform for any social worker to be challenged in what they do. It has made her to learn more about giving, the more you give the more you receive. Through YMCA she has learnt more about empowering young people at risk and to be a leader as a person.

Her life through YMCA involvement has changed her profile to a good part a lot, because now is aware of certain things wasn’t aware of herself. She has learnt more about herself, was shy and felt not confident enough to deal with critical issues as social worker but now is very hope full, confident and strongly believing that, YMCA is a safe space for every young person to grow individually and as collective by acquiring skills and strategies mostly not learnt in school. 

She has learnt to be a leader, been a Y-Justice social worker where kids at risks they look up for them, not because you are a leader but  because there is need to be aware of certain thing you speak to them and what you do as a person. Been a social worker need to come within yourself, it need to have a heart for it. You give your best and leave something better in someone’s life. It’s about making them feel special about themselves as well as understanding their background and problems that exist. You need to show your willingness to empower them, love without judging them with their smell, it’s good to talk to them nicely without showing any differences, show them you’re willing to help and to let them in your life. All that is life teaching to Nonkululeko.