My life has been difficult. I wish it was possible to display the hardships I’ve been through, or to map the journey that have led me to be where I am today. I sincerely appreciate the opportunity of being a Yali fellow , it is my hope that you realize the importance of the program in my life. I am Tshepo Nkhabu from Lesotho in Southern Africa. Providing support to a leader in a community which can’t solve its own problems is like pouring water in a fish pond which was drying.
In Lesotho schools and parents use corporal punishment to reprimand children. I did not like the system of punishment in Lesotho, when I was 8, & in grade 3, I moved with my father to South Africa. From a young age my biggest dream has been to help people with long-term solutions to the problems that they are facing. In high school my desire to help in my community grew more. I could no longer be silent, I shared my dreams and how I felt about the then situations with everyone. I received a lot of negative comments from friends & people. None of them encouraged me, or tried partnering with me to come up with solutions to our shared problems, instead they treated me as if I was a criminal. They accused me of talking too much…”all you do is talk talk talk,” they would say. I used to tell them how I will make a positive impact in my community and eventually the whole world, no one believed.
They bullied me mercilessly while I was in high school because I dared to suggest change. I dropped out of school in 2013, I left in grade 11. I received a negative report about my performance that year. I could no longer take the stress of being in that demoralizing environment anymore. I let to pursue my dreams. I didn’t allow that paper to make decision for my life. I followed my dream and started a cycling organization. Without my parents consent, or knowledge I used the school fees money of the following year to rent an office. I started going into communities to arrange clubs and youth football clubs. I was all alone, I had no support. There were no adults in my community who believed in what I was doing. I had to give up the office because I could not afford rent anymore.
I begun working from home but my family could not understand my work, many business owners ignored my dream of building a youth center in our community of Mafeteng. I went to the chiefs in my community and they too said they had no space. I found no positive embraced and received no positive guidance from the authority figures in my life. They could not understand why I wanted to mobilize the youth in our community, and they also did not think we could impact change or come together to solve the problems that we were facing every day. But, I am here to tell you I persevered, the negative attitudes I received made me work harder to find a better reality for me and my peers.We have established Hands of Life.
Now, after all these years, I now have the support of many adults, peers, and organizations internationally and locally at home. I should tell you that there were days when I asked myself if the struggle was worthy it and I am happy that my belief in myself always made me answer ‘yes’. I am grateful for all the people who now stand with me. Together we can build a brighter future for us all.