When TV presenter Kholosa Lubisi got her first producing job on a TV show, she knew that her love for telling human stories would change lives. But just how much her own life would be impacted by the story of a young boy struggling to take care of his younger siblings by himself was not something she could have ever predicted.
The media personality's heart-tugging recollection of meeting this boy in the rural Eastern Cape as producer of the SABC1 youth current affairs show, Expressions, led many public figures, including choreographer, Idols SA judge and businessman Somizi Mhlongo, to pledge their financial support for the child-headed family.
“It was my first show for Expressions," Kholosa tells Drum of that fateful meeting with the boy whose life was so hectic he had to wash his brothers' school uniforms and prepare them for school every day, and cook each meal, after their mom passed way.
"I thought, let me go home, because I am also from the rural areas in the Eastern Cape, and do a human interest story on child headed-homes. I then contacted a non-profit-organization back at home, and through Tata Majola who works a lot with cases of children, I was able to meet these three little brothers.”
Kholosa says when she met the 13-year-old boy, it almost broke her heart to see the condition he and his siblings were living in.
“We couldn’t find their relatives," she adds.
"I asked the neighbours who actively contribute towards taking care of these children who else is supporting them? They said that there was a gentleman who comes with the little that he has every month-end because he is also unemployed.”
Life forced them to grow up. “They do everything, like the bread that they were eating on the show, the made it themselves. And sometimes they’ll get a cup of rice. It was so sad,” says the producer.
????Imagine a 13 year old playing a role of being a mother and a father. This is a sad reality if these young souls. They live all by themselves.. no food & basic needs.I produced their story & will be on air #Expressions at 5pm on Sabc1. Please watchLet's support them #STAGE2 pic.twitter.com/BPT6fWubMz— Kholosa (@LubisiKholosa) June 20, 2022
“I remember when we got there, it was early on a Friday morning. We wanted to get there before they went to school, and already they were making their way to school. Mind you, we got there at around 6.30am and school starts at 8am.”
She says the children have no one to wake them up or even a cellphone to set an alarm. Instead, they depend on the brightness of the sky in the morning to guess the time.
When speaking to Kholosa on the show, the 13-year-old boy who cannot be named to protect his identity as a minor, said that their lives were better when their mother was still alive.
“Things are now tough that even the roof of our house looks like it can fall at any time. We don’t have birth certificates, it’s only our younger brother who has it.”
The emotional Kholosa decided to share the story on Tik Tok and within hours many Good Samaritans flooded her comments section to offer their help, including media personality, Somizi Mhlongo.
“I also received a call from the department of social development eMonti," Kholosa tells Drum. "They want to assist with birth certificates of the children. So I connected them with the neighbour who will assist.”
She says those who wish to donate to the family must know that they are not allowed to donate cash to avoid being scammed.
“We are not accepting any cash, please," she pleads. "There are a lot of scammers who might reply on the comments section with account numbers saying that they are mine or create a fake profile under my name. Please be careful about that and know that we do not accept cash as donations.”
She encourages anyone wishing to help to donate things like clothes and food. “What will happen is, if you are in the Eastern Cape for instance and have clothes that you wish to give to these children, you can meet with others and decide where you will be gathering them before they can be taken to the children. Or use food vouchers, even (contact) registered NPOs.”
Kholosa says she's still processing the impact this story has had, not only on the boys' lives, but on her own too.
"I have mixed emotions," she admits.
"The story took over. But I am, like, I will see the congratulations some other time because my focus now is getting help for those young boys."