Leon*: fighting for a better life

2016-09-15 06:00

BORN to an alcoholic mother, not knowing who his father is, struggling at school and receiving alcohol as a treat - life was good for him as a young child.

Leon* (22) recalls his early childhood.

“My mother was not perfect, but I felt loved at home,” says Leon who suffers from Fatal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). He often heard rushing sounds in his head and struggled to understand school work and keep up with the other children in class.

Leon only knows his stepfather. “When there was extra money, he would ‘spoil’ me by giving me money to buy alcohol,” says Leon who started drinking when he was six years old.

Then everything changed for the worse.

Life changed drastically for the whole family when Leon was only 13 years old. They were forced out of their Reconstruction and Deve-lopment Programme (RDP) house by people renting a shack in their backyard.

“I do not understand why they did that,” says Leon sadly. “They took away my life when they took away our home - everything went wrong after that.”

He moved around from one foster home to the next, and eventually he found himself living on the streets.

“Life on the streets is not a life at all. I felt like an empty tin being kicked around,” he says. “Your ‘friends’ stab you in the back. It is a life of drugs, abuse and constant fighting. You do not move forward, only backwards.”

His undesirable life led to two stints in pri-son.

“There you fight to survive. It is a life of gangsters. You prove your worth by the crimes you commit - only then will you be accepted and move up the ‘ranks’,” he says.

“You have a lot of time to think. You ask yourself the question: how did I get here?”

After his last stint in prison, Leon found himself back on the streets - he hit rock bottom.

Hoping for a better life, he approached Jo-shua Project in Jeffreys Bay - a community project focussed on providing psychosocial support to vulnerable children and youth.

Leon is busy taking stock of his life, wanting to make something of his life.

“I want to live a good life. I want a wife and I want to be a dad,” he says. “I always enjoyed attending church, and I want to get back on track with God. I believe there is something for me in this life. It might take a long time, but I know it will happen.”

Leon loves running, listening to music and sport.

He enjoys working with his hands and is assisting at Pure Dust, a woodwork company which operates from Joshua Project, making articles from pallet wood.

There is still a lot of hurt inside him and it is hard for him to think. He gets angry when people dictate to him and treat him with disrespect.

‘Nobody likes to be treated this way,” he says with a frown on his face.

*Leon is not his real name.

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