Drug addict makes amends in art

Vrygrond resident Charles Jansen (30) in front of a mural he painted for Vrygrond Development Trust’s computer lab. PHOTO: TIYESE JERANJI
Vrygrond resident Charles Jansen (30) in front of a mural he painted for Vrygrond Development Trust’s computer lab. PHOTO: TIYESE JERANJI

“It’s time to give back to my community now, because for long I have been breaking it down.”

These are the words of Charles Jansen (30) from Vrygrond, who says he was destroying the community for more than 10 years to feed his drug problem. But now he is setting the wrongs of his past right.

He is now an art facilitator at the Butterfly Art Project, giving back to his community by teaching children art. With the help of the organisation he managed to complete Grade 12 and he has enrolled at Unisa for a higher certificate in qualified teaching.

“I never thought I would enjoy teaching children but the more I do it, the more I love it.”

Jansen says his past was a disaster waiting to happen. He was addicted to tik and dagga; he would go to extremes to get a fix. He robbed people, even in his own community, to buy drugs. At the age of 16 I got involved with gangs and crime. I committed my first crime, then I went to prison for attempted murder, possession of an illegal firearm and ammunition. My mother used to accompany me because I was a minor, but the case dragged on until I was so old I didn’t need an adult. I had to go to court on my own. I was scared, so I didn’t go, I ran away.”

He continued to commit crimes until he was caught again.

“When we robbed someone again police caught up with me and the previous case came up. I was sentenced and I had to do my time. Despite being in prison I didn’t learn my lesson. I went out and continued again. I was robbing just to feed my drug habit,” he says.

He had a passion for art, but he used it for the wrong reasons.

“I did murals to feed my habit. Most of the murals were done so that I could go buy drugs.”

When he went to prison for the 24th time, he decided to change. “When I was released my aim was to survive the first day out of prison because I knew the days after would be easy. If I survived a day at home with no drugs or gang I was prepared to face the days ahead,” he says.

“I’m happy where I am. I will not move away from this community because I have to correct my mistakes and help other children know that crime doesn’t pay.”

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