The most rewarding aspect of my job is talking to and getting to understand those Lifeline Energy serves. Out of the more than 250 young people we met, all study to candles, either individually or in pairs and the study ethic is strong. This is also an area with an astonishingly high crime rate, including robbery, rape and murder. To a child, every one was afraid to venture out at night. They said that the Lifelights would help them to feel more secure, especially when they had to venture to their outside pit latrines after dark.
There were many young people who really impressed me despite the loss of their parents and the poverty in which they live.
This amazing young woman, Zanele, 17, is an excellent high school student in a rural village. Her best subject is geography and she hopes to attend university on a bursary. The Gogo, 46, looks after 4 children. Zanele is eldest. After school she washes her uniform, helps cook, garden and clean and then tries to study with the others to one candle.
Meet South Africa’s next chess champion, Xolani, 13. This engaging young man who excels at maths and science took up chess in Themalethu Home Based Care’s after school chess programme. Xolani lives with his Gogo (whose pension they live on) and 6 other children and told me all 7 share a candle to study. His grandparents fled the civil war in Mozambique in the 80’s. He speaks Shangani, Swazi and English.
This is a study group in one of the villages I visited that is now using their new Lifelight instead of a candle. They told me that they planned to ‘study their way out of poverty’. Thembalethu, will track academic performance over the next few months to see if studying to clean lighting really does improve grades as the expect that it will.