Being homeless for a period of seven years was somewhat of a privilege for Clement Makolo, 34, who now uses his experiences to motivate young people in schools and share the little he has with street kids.
He is a motivational speaker and started a campaign called ‘Children in Paradise’ after participating in programmes run by youth organisations such as LoveLife and Brothers for Life.
Makolo ran away from home at the age of 13 having hit his allegedly abusive stepfather with a beer bottle. Following seven years of hardship on the streets a good Samaritan, Telling Ndlovu gave him a home when he was 20- years-old and that is when he decided to turn his life around and give back to the Ndlovu family by helping other homeless youths reunite with their families. Life on the streets was tough but he got to learn a lot of things that made him the man he is today. He said he used all sorts of drugs such as cocaine, dagga and sniffed petrol but quit after being adopted by the Ndlovu family.
Makolo who is from Letsokoane, Seshego regards himself as a good cook and uses his skills to feed homeless children in the city. He regularly gives them bread and soup and also has one-on-one sessions with them to listen to their stories. He targets Grade 8 learners in his motivational talks because he believes that they are more exposed to a lot of things hence they need someone to steer them in the right direction.
He explained that he wants to influence youth to make the right choices in life and choose careers wisely. “I also remind children about their rights and responsibilities. I work part-time jobs to earn money to be able to feed homeless children. I was given a second chance and sharing what I have with children on the streets gives me joy,” he said.
He added that he always makes time to chat with street kids to learn about their situation and encourage them to go back home. To date he has already reunited 30 children with their families and outlined that some of them are back in school while others have opened small businesses. Makolo sometimes refers street kids who are emotionally abused to social workers to help them get back to normal.
He said street kids listen to him because he has experience in what they are going through and that is why some of them decided to reunite with their families. He was stabbed eight times during his period on the street and emphasised that he was lucky to have survived the fights and attacks. “Homeless people fight for food, money and clothes and the older ones always take advantage of the youngsters. Some even get raped. I am happy with the progress I made thus far and I wish other stakeholders can join forces and help groom street kids into better people. Parents should always make time to discuss things with children as this is the only way they can understand whatever situation a child might be in. Young people should always voice their problems to get help,” he stressed.
Ndlovu explained that she saw potential in Makolo and decided to give him a second chance in life. She said she had faith in him that is why she introduced him to her children and started treating him like one of her own. “Children need love and support to stay on the right track and we should always give people second chances because we all make mistakes. He needs more support from businesses and the community to be able to assist more homeless people. We should not discriminate or judge other people but shape them into better people,” she explained.
Ndlovu further said love is based on three things being trust, caring and sharing and urged people to adopt these three qualities to grow into better people.
Makolo is still nurturing a young woman, Precious Machete, 16, who also started a campaign called ‘SisterhoodLightUpALife’. Precious, a Grade 11 learner at Mohlakaneng Secondary School explained that her campaign aims at helping victims of abuse to raise their voices. She said she was also abused sexually by a close relative and managed to deal with the trauma by talking about her experience with an elderly person. She works with organisations such as Kasihood and her wish is to help as many women as possible.
She wants to become a social worker to continue helping people. Precious is not just an aspiring motivational speaker but also a poet, storyteller and rapper and uses all her talents to get the message across. She urged young people to talk about what they are going through to be able to heal.
Story and photo: ENDY SENYATSI