Taking the time to inspire change

2012-08-18 14:45

It doesn’t take a beauty queen sash or 67 minutes on a preordained day to make time to help those less fortunate.

As a former beauty queen, I got a taste of community work during my reign as Miss Soweto in 1987 and later as Miss South Africa 1995. I’m now working with paroled prisoners, despite recently becoming a victim of crime for the second time.

The Miss Soweto title gave me a taste of what it was like not just to think of yourself but of others too. Later I won Miss SA and it continued from there.

Today, as a mother of three young children, I use the lessons I have learnt to help me raise my family.

They see they cannot be selfish. If they are living a good life, they need to try to change someone else’s life for the better. Sometimes it can start with your own extended family. As a child, it was never just my parents and I. My mom and dad always took in my cousins, and cared for them as their own.

Eight years ago we were robbed in our home, a crime which left my husband and I angry with the system and government. Instead of feeling like a victim, I decided to be a victor and got involved in a prisoner parolee reintroduction programme in Soweto.

I give talks on encouragement and how to change your situation. I will be going to Waterval Prison in Durban soon. Last month we had an attempted break-in at our home, but I refuse to be scared to live my life.

I feel it is important that these men see people like me who have been victims of their crimes and that I still come back and stand before them trying to motivate them to become better human beings.

Another project close to my heart is the Teenage Passage of Rites programme, which I am running with (former Miss Soweto) Nonhlanhla Simelane to help teens cope with growing up. We deal with the issues they are confronted with, such as pregnancy, suicide and how to deal with being influenced by negative stereotypes such as dating wealthy, older men in exchange for clothing labels.

The work is fulfilling since I grew up on the streets of Soweto myself. We have been holding sessions in community halls or addressing gatherings in people’s homes, but I’d like to run a finishing school one day, teaching deportment and table manners.

Finding time to do community work is easier for me because I run my own business and can manage my own time. For those who work but want to get involved, find your closest old age home, police station or hospital. Clean an elderly person’s home.

Somewhere in your own back yard there is someone you can help.

It doesn’t take money, sometimes it just takes time. Hansa’s Next Beeg Dreamer competition is giving people the opportunity to think out of the box and find innovative ways of helping their communities.

There have been some wonderful examples, such as a woman who wanted a community garden planted and another who suggested starting a night crèche for parents who need a safe place for their children to sleep.

There are many ways to make a difference. I come across people who still know me and say I inspired them when they saw me on TV and that their mothers used to tell them, “Be like Augustine”.

I’d like my legacy to be that of a woman who knew what it was to change someone’s life positively.

» Masilela is a wedding and events planner, and the judge of the community section of the Hansa Next Beeg Dreamer competition. View entries online at www.hansa.co.za

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