Friday, 17 August 2012

Soweto Kliptown Youth

Wednesday afternoon we went to SKY (Soweto Kliptown Youth) the orphanage/youth centre run by Bob Nameng, in Kliptown, which is a particularly poor area of Soweto. It is the first time we have been into one of the truly deprived parts of the townships, houses are replaced by tin shacks, and roads are just wider areas of dusty potholed ground.

In the middle of all of this, there is an orphanage full of some of the most amazing people you will ever meet. Bob spent time on the streets as a child, before being taken in by his aunt, a midwife, who raised him and his brother after his parents died when he was still tiny. He initially started a choir with girls in his area, and this quickly grew into an orphanage with youth centre programs.

Bob has amazing ideas on combating poverty, women's rights and morality. He tries to raise his kids to better themselves rather than to depend on help from outside. Growing up assisting his aunt with her midwifery apparently opened his eyes to hardships of being a woman in South Africa from an early age so Bob also conducts lesson on self-assertiveness and self-respect for girls, encouraging them to become responsible and confident women in their adult lives.

Setting up a programme like this in the 80s, when apartheid was still in full swing, takes a lot of courage and fortitude, but Bob sees working with kids as his calling and has always adopted a policy of never turning away a child. The staff in his centre are the first to go hungry if there is a shortage of food, and they sleep on the floor to remind themselves of the hardships their kids have been through when they arrive.

Natalie learning a clapping & chanting game
The kids who we met were absolutely fantastic, they were extremely polite, well spoken, and very open and accepting of us being their, the older ones happily chatted to us, as well as singing for us. While the younger ones (aged around 3 to 7) were thrilled to play with us, be picked up and cuddled as well as ride around on people's shoulders. Pete was adopted by a 5 year old boy who took one awed look at his 6'4'' frame before high fiving him and then insisting on being carried around for the rest of our stay. Pete was absolutely smitten.

Overall, the trip was simply inspiring, these kids come from awful backgrounds, and I was quite worried about how painful it would be to experience an orphanage out here, but Bob raises them with this philosophy of openness, and equality that is absolutely fantastic to see and the kids are absolutely inspirational. We plan to go back and spend more time with them next week.


  1. Good to see how positive your blogs are becoming; you are really getting into the whole experience. Hope to hear all about it next time. H

    1. Thanks Heather, hopefully we will be going back there early next week! I'm meeting Sam (from our tutor group) for dinner next week too, which should be really nice x

  2. Say hello to Sam for me. Hope the unrest following the mining confrontations doesn't impinge on your visits. Enjoy your remaining stay. H