Kaylah was born in Durban and moved to Bonteheuwel because her family couldn’t afford to send her to school, and the neighborhood they lived in was becoming more and more dangerous. “You can’t go too far because they will take you in the car and kill you and drop you just there.” Her neighborhood, like many in the townships in cities across South Africa, was dominated by gang violence. Kaylah remembers the fear of playing outside, of wandering a few streets too far, of playing a little too rough with a new classmate. “I met another friend and he said, ‘No, I can’t play with you because my daddy is a gangster and if you do something to me then he will come to kill your father.’”
There is no escaping the violence. The children that grow up in these communities are taught to take every precaution, but it is inevitable that they will be in a situation where their life is in danger, and it will stay with them forever. Kaylah revisits a moment that replays when she closes her eyes. “There were ten men, one had a gun and one had a hammer and one had an axe. Someone was there, he was already bleeding on the floor, and the men came and shot him dead. Me and my aunt saw all of that when we were coming back from the popcorn shop. I was eight years old. My aunt was still in high school.”
Despite living in tough circumstances, Kaylah wants to help the people that have even less than her. She has always done whatever she can to help people without homes or food. “I would like to help the homeless people, give them a home and food so they don’t have to sit by the streets and ask for food…I’ll ask my mommy to buy one or two pies and I’ll go out and give one of the pies to them.” She wants to change her community, one person at a time.
It’s easy to step back and admire Kaylah for her perseverance and empathy in fighting against the negativity in her life. But she shouldn’t have to. She is still a kid. Her favourite class is history and she doesn’t like math. She loves to play outside with her friends, and at home she likes to read. She joined the Amy Foundation because she wanted to keep learning, and it would keep her busy until her parents came home from work. She chose to join the numeracy and literacy programme because she wanted to get better at math and because she likes English. But what she and many other learners love the most are the outings organized by the foundation to take the learners to different places around the city. She can rely on the facilitators of the programmes to do whatever they can to empower her and improve her life, from giving advice to staying late to help her with schoolwork. The impact the Amy Foundation has had on Kaylah will carry through to the next generation of learners, because she dreams of being a teacher and living up to her role models at the foundation.
*Written by Indigo Knights in 2021, based on an interview with Kaylah.