Cape Town - City of Cape Town traffic officer Nolusindiso Piyose said "doing the right thing" kept her motivated during the three-month search to reunite a homeless child with his family.
"I am humbled. It's been a long journey, but I didn't give up hope - I knew I needed to find him; I knew I needed to do the right thing," Piyose told News24 on Tuesday afternoon August 1 after receiving a commendation badge from the City of Cape Town for "outstanding work". She has been working as an officer for six years.
"I am a kind person; I was simply doing my job," she said.
Piyose, 33, first met the 17-year-old homeless teen while on duty in Camps Bay in December. At the time, Piyose had just returned to work after being hijacked in front of a Khayelitsha hospital.
"I needed to get my head off of it. So on December 29th  us 10 officers were standing opposite the Pick and Pay in Camps Bay when the boy approached us and told us there was a guy lying unconscious in the bushes.
"I immediately went and looked. While I was walking there I asked the boy: 'What are you doing on the streets? Why don't you want to go to school?'"
The boy said he intended to go back home, but didn't have transport to return to his family in Johannesburg.
Piyose asked him whether he didn't know anyone on Facebook. The boy directed her to his sister's Facebook page and Piyose immediately messaged her.
"The day when the dad phoned, it was on a Saturday and he phoned and he was literally crying over the phone. He told me: 'What you did for me, I would never forget you. I am starting my vehicle as I speak; I am coming to Cape Town.'
"His father was so excited that he found his son. He thought that his son had passed [away] a long time ago."
The boy, however, "disappeared" before the dad arrived in Cape Town.
"We immediately started searching through the bushes of Camps Bay. I crawled through those bushes. Every single person I met I asked: 'Did you see him? When last was he here?'" Piyose said.
"I even went to Station Berg, the building behind the taxi rank in town, an old building, where the homeless people sleep. It is a place they use to hide - to hide from the rain and from the cold. It's dangerous there, but I even jumped in there and asked if anybody knew him."
The father left after two weeks, but Piyose kept searching, mobilising non-profit organisations, fellow officers and members of the public to help look for the boy.
In March, the boy arrived unharmed at a City of Cape Town traffic office after which he was taken back to Johannesburg.
Piyose, who never met the boy again after their encounter in December, said she is "just happy the boy is back home safe".
"I am a person who loves kids, I love taking good care of kids and I like seeing people who are happy and being in a good space."
She said the boy allegedly ran away after he stole R900 from his father, who is a pastor, and allegedly used the money for drugs.
"I sometimes talk to the boy over WhatsApp and ask him how he's doing. Someday we will meet in person [again] and I will hug him because I am grateful he's safe."