Ulrich Janse van Vuuren

#SmilesForMeka lights up Twitter

2017-05-22 10:21

Sometimes all we need to do is share a smile to change someone’s world. 

Nyameka “Meka” Tshangela, an upbeat young woman from Johannesburg reminded me of this. She and a friend decided to start something really simple and positive in response to all the negative news that have been flooding our social media feeds lately.

The pair came up with a hashtag called #SmilesForMeka. They asked people to post photos of their biggest, sincerest smiles and then spread the cheer by sharing the happy pictures with strangers on social media.

People from all across South Africa started posting their smiling selfies online. Grinning South African faces were popping up all over our newsfeeds and timelines – everyone from moms with cute babies, best friends and students, professionals, gogos and school kids all wanted to share a little bit of their happiness with others.

Nyameka Tshangela believes that a genuine smile is so warm that it can even be felt through pictures. She posted these cheerful selfies and reassured me that with everything going on in South Africa right now, she fails to lose hope for tomorrow.  

“We have been seeing an alarming increase in gloomy stories the past few weeks - of violence against women and children, the lady who got killed and burnt by her boyfriend, taxi rapes and the uncertainty of our economy’s downgrade to junk-status. With all that has been going on it’s important to keep smiling. Even in the midst of all this we must smile because there is always hope.”

Daisy Khumalo is a superwoman. Single mother of 4, she is sole bread winner for her 3 siblings and a microbiologist by profession. She’s been through a lot and believes she still has every reason to smile.

“I lost both my parents at a very young age, I was raped and molested most of my childhood, I also survived abuse and domestic violence. Today I stand victorious and have every reason to smile. I went after everything the devil thought he took away from me. Now I truly appreciate my life, the highs and the lows. I understand it’s all part of the journey. The smile on my face cannot reflect the feelings I have inside – the best heart is a restored heart. We all have a sense that things are overwhelming in SA. We need to find small ways to remain hopeful and positive to create change. A smile is a first step.”

Lerato Ngubeni from Pretoria says that South Africa is in turmoil and wants to share some hope with others.

“To be honest there is not much to smile about. Government, among other things, leaves much to be desired for but we cannot walk around with our heads buried in the ground. We need to continue showing that there’s still hope for the country. We need to stand together and try and outnumber the negativity with more positive vibes.”

Nozipho Khoza at the Department of Higher Education Training love how we as South Africans can unite and support each other when something positive is happening.

“Things are tough in RSA at the moment. However, if you want to change the world do it with a smile. Strangers can become best friends simply because of a smile.”

Thandekile Sibeko feels that online conversations and campaigns have allowed women without a voice to finally speak up.

“Over the last couple of days I’ve seen hundreds of women who, some for the very first time, got to share their stories bringing to light the realities of domestic violence and femicide in our country. I smile because it is not the end. South Africa has so much to offer and I believe, just like a phoenix, is yet to rise.”

Anelisa Ndikandika is a mother from Cape Town and posted this cute pic with her son.

“I believe a smile is a sign of hope. We smile in the hope that everything will get better. No matter how hard things in our country might be right now, it is still worth it to keep going. Life is not easy and it does not come without its hurdles. The first step to getting over those hurdles is with hope.”

Masego Mompati, a health student, tells me that smiling is a good way of relieving stress and that she is that person who is forever smiling.

“I believe it is good and important to smile at least once a day, no matter what you are going through. Yes, we are in a crisis as a country but being depressed about it won’t help us. We need to stay hopeful. I love to smile and love seeing other people smile as well.”

Nokuthula Sena from Soweto believes that positivity heals and is something South African women need right now.

“This past week showed me how cruel people can be, especially with all the stories of violence against women. This has opened my eyes about what some women go through and all the hurt and pain they endure. Joining in and sharing my smile is something positive and hopeful that all women need.”

Lekgolo Monakhisi, a 24-year-old from Seshego location is the mother to an amazing and smart little 4 year old boy. She believes a simple smile can cure anything and so posted a photo with her son goofing off with their teeth out and hoped that whoever sees it would be filled with laughter. 


“Daily we read about corruption, women being attacked; we witness people losing their jobs and children going missing. Our government is fighting one another instead of fighting for citizens’ education, basic housing, clean water, employment and so forth. All we need is to have faith. When it gets tough it is easy to lose faith and it’s even more difficult to regain it. I can only wish that we all try and stay positive with all that’s going on because curling up under a rock never helped anyone. A smooth sea never made a skillful sailor.”

- Ulrich Janse van Vuuren is a humanitarian, anthropologist, social and environmental activist with a passion for people and nature. Proudly South African, he lives in Johannesburg. Follow him on Twitter.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

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