Landisa: I am the son of a farm worker and I just published my own poetry

Neville Pedro
Neville Pedro

My name is a Neville Pedro, a 34-year-old born on the farm Welbedag in a small-town in the Koue Bokkeveld in the rural Western Cape. 

A month after I was born my dad Piet Morris was killed, and my mom Dinah Pedro – a farm worker – had to raise me on her own with help from family and friends. 

My dad lost his life over a cassette player and that's almost all I know about him. My childhood was incredibly difficult and I was constantly reminded of the void my dad left behind when the other children spoke about their fathers. 

All I had of my dad was a photo of him which I looked at every day before bed. 

At school, I was often teased and bullied, and I grew up shy  often afraid of talking to people. Because I was so skinny I was an easy target, but it was those difficult times in my life that gave me the strength to move forward. 

It was only in high school that I discovered writing which gave me a voice to start sharing what was going on inside. I started writing poetry which gave me the confidence to stand up for myself. It was the most liberating experience of my life. 

However, at the time my mom lost her job and some of the most difficult times in our lives started. Our lives were consumed by simply surviving, and during school holidays I was forced to go work on farms to simply get enough money to buy bread. 

I was convinced that I had to leave school to go work, and to cope I started drinking and smoking as a means of escape. I thought it would make everything better but it never did. 

When the escape smoking and alcohol provided started wearing off I walked away from school because I simply couldn't handle things any longer. Everything was too much. Teachers often came to talk to me to encourage me but I didn't want to listen. The load I carried was simply too heavy. 

Too many days my mom and I went to bed hungry, and we were dependent on friends who give us leftovers to survive. 

It was then that Mr Manie Mars, my high school teacher, came to talk to my mother and encouraged me to go to the school hostel. Only then I was slowly able to pick up the pieces of my life. 

Things started getting better. 

After school, I lost all my poems  over 600  when I had to move to Prins Albert Hamlet, roughly two hours from Cape Town, and started work as a farm worker. It still hurts thinking of the stories I've lost. 

After 2013 when my son Elquin was born, I started looking for something more than farm work and dreamt of writing my own poetry collection. I knew it wasn't going to be easy, but I had a drive to do better and better  for the sake of my son and for my family. 

Occasionally I cried while I wrote down my poems, but it forced me to tackle the demons inside of me. 

A year ago I started sharing those poems on Facebook, and from there  like wildfire  it spread. 

(supplied)

A publisher in Johannesburg contacted me and helped me edit my manuscript, but I had to raise the funds myself to publish it. I spent months fundraising  often organising markets and braais to raise funds to publish the book. 

The book Psalms van 'n Plaaskind (Psalms of a Farm Child) was published last week, and it is the proudest I've ever been about anything I've done with my life. I wanted to do it, not only for myself, but to show every farm child that their dreams can come true no matter how hard it is. Every dream is achievable.

Do you have a story to share? Send it to landisa@news24.com and include your contact details and a photo. Visit Landisa for more stories. 

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