YES WE CAN!

Katlehong Covid-19 support goes AWOL – community action network steps in

By Tshepo Kubeka aka Hopetimistic 19 August 2020

Volunteers planting vegetables seeds. (Photo: Tshepo Kubeka)

The HOPE Community Action Network began four months ago as a response to the challenges the community of Katlehong, east of Johannesburg, faces amid Covid-19. We are operating in Katlehong but we also cover most of the surrounding areas.

The impact of Covid-19 led to many people struggling due to most industries being closed, jobs being lost and the inability of people to feed themselves as most businesses in our community are informal. We couldn’t get help from the government for food parcels and Covid grants due to corruption and people were benefiting due to the alignment to the ruling party, this led to the levels of poverty rising in my community.

The HOPE Community Action Network (CAN) was formed four months ago. We called it HOPE because we aspired to inspire hope and change by making a difference to the community. We only have 14 volunteers, but we hope for more and we organise through local ward committee structures, schools and NGOs.

Local farming projects for schools and the community. (Photo: Tshepo Kubeka)

I have been involved in developmental programmes in my community because, being born and bred in Katlehong, my environment played a strong role in my upbringing. I was raised by a single mom and my life was meant to be another statistical fact due to the level of unemployment, the high levels of crime, alcohol and substance abuse and the high illiteracy rate. This propelled my passion for social entrepreneurship and empowerment.

To date HOPE CAN have been involved in relief efforts distributing food parcels, clothes and blankets to the elderly; we have fed over 350 people through our soup station in Nhlapo section, including at Izibuko local primary school and the Kgotsong Women’s hostel; distributed over 300 sanitary pads at Fumana High School and educational packs for matric students as schools were closed due to the pandemic.

Vegetable garden. (Photo: Tshepo Kubeka)

Some of our initiatives include local farming projects for schools and the community, provision of mini fire extinguishers to the impoverished community who live in the Mandela “squatter-camps” and driving campaigns on gender-based violence and Black Lives Matter.

Recently we were able to enrol 20 unemployed young women to study artificial intelligence and coding as a pilot project to empower women with exceptional skills in programming and to enhance their employment prospects in the fourth industrial revolution age. This led to the formation of Kgothatso International Development Institute through a partnership with Ikusasa Technology Solutions to produce 350 graduates on coding and artificial intelligence annually once fully operational.

More than 100 anti- gender-based violence books distributed. (Photo: Axolile Mke)

We have recently started a youth-owned and controlled investment fund called Youth Empowerment Pioneers whose vision is to become the largest investment fund in Africa and with an intention to drive equity participation for the youth in the mainstream economy. Our model seeks to empower youth in job creation and provision of support for any economically viable entity without security or collateral.

HOPE CAN’s priorities going forward are education; building sustainable community farms and reviving local spaza shops that have been abandoned as a result of xenophobia as a way to drive employment and entrepreneurship. We have adopted a high school where we are initiating some farming projects.

Campaigns against gender-based-violence around Kathelhong. (Photo: Axolile Mke)

So much hangs on education because kids see no value in it at the moment. We don’t know where the economy will be after Covid-19 so on behalf of the CANS we are thinking of using the internet and various programmes that are offered to children. We have to rely on young people to pick up the pieces.

The future of food security in SA is unknown, yet we have vast land that we could use to produce our own food, so that is another model we are looking into. Part of the rollout of farming projects will be in school so that we can assist the school food programme. I have two sites and I’m hoping that people might use me and other CANs as a pilot phase just to see.

Black lives matter campaign. (Photo: Axolile Mke)

All of our work has been achieved through our extensive network of support and partnerships. We would like to send a special thanks to Gauteng Together and the Angel Network for their unrelenting support, Stand United SA for their assistance and support on matters of gender-based violence, Father A Nation for online courses on gender-based violence and last but not least Ikusasa Technology Solutions for providing 20 learnerships for young girls in our community to study coding and artificial intelligence.

HOPE CAN is currently operating without resources and funding; one of our major stumbling blocks is access to transport and support for our volunteers for tirelessly being involved in our initiatives. DM/MC

Tshepo Kubeka is an entrepreneur who is passionate about empowerment, entrepreneurship and development. If you would like to contact Tshepo or support the HOPE CAN contact: 074 229 0069; [email protected]

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