- Hout Bay community activist Jeffery Jonkers has been providing 40 children with free educational programmes and swimming lessons.
- NPO Harvest Youth Project, which he co-founded, officially closed their doors due to the pandemic last year.
- Jonkers said there was "no way" he could desert the kids, as many of them relied on the food and activities.
Forty kids from Hout Bay are living their best lives after a community activist opened his home to teach underprivileged children free life skills, breakdancing, and swimming lessons.
Speaking to News24, 33-year-old Jeffrey Jonkers said it gave him great joy to provide a "necessary service" to the kids of the community.
"Currently, we don't have a specific venue where I can teach the kids, so I’ve opened up my home to them every day so the kids can come and learn, do fun activities and then, later during the day, we head off to the beach where I teach them to learn the basics of swimming," he said.
Jonkers, who has a certificate in Pre-Sea Training, said he started devoting himself full-time to the kids of the Hangberg area after the non-profit organisation (NPO) Harvest Youth Project closed at the beginning of last year.
The NPO was founded by Helena Fagan, Peter Parker and Jonkers and had been around for eight years doing what they can to help residents in disadvantaged communities improve their lives.
"The NPO had no choice but to shut its doors due to the pandemic. We weren’t receiving donations, and the funding that we were getting from sponsors had stopped. Staff members were issued with letters at the beginning of last year. It was truly heart-breaking, considering we’ve been around for so long helping kids and community members," said Jonkers.
According to the bubbly activist, he had decided not to give up on the kids, and ventured out on his own with the help of those who could assist where they could with donations.
Kids from as young as 7-16 years old all join in the daily fun activities.
"I had no funds even to begin to start my support system for these kids. I humbled myself and put out a video on social media asking for help. By the grace of God, so many people had reached out, donating food, swimming equipment, clothing, and ice-creams for the kids. It was very overwhelming and exciting," added Jonkers.
Jonkers, who has been unemployed for the past two years, says he has a very soft spot for the children he works with.
"The school holidays, we got to bond so much more. Instead of the usual educational talks and activities, I decided to take them down in a group to the Hout Bay harbour for swimming lessons, and didn’t they enjoy it! They didn’t want to leave the water," Jonkers said with a giggle.
With the Western Cape temperatures reaching more than 30 degrees Celsius, it was the perfect opportunity to teach the children to swim.
"I started teaching my son to swim; when I saw how terrified he was of the water, I realised, how many of these kids also feel the same way? So, I gathered them all around and gave them the plan of what’s going to happen when we get to the waters, and these kids are so happy in the water, they absolutely enjoy it," he added.
After daily swims and schooling activities, the kids get a hot meal and then make their way home to their families.
"Not many of these kids have families to go home to. Some of their parents are on drugs, while others have households that are not conducive for a child’s well-being," Jonkers said.
He said he now has two kids who live with his family, as they don’t have the parent support they need.
"I currently have two of the kids who live with my family. Both will be starting high school on Monday. Words cannot describe how excited they are. They keep eagerly asking, when is school starting."
Some of the kids who took a keen interest in the breakdancing that Jonkers provides have since won eight dancing competitions in Mitchells Plain, Delft and Kraaifontein.
"Five of my kids won eight titles for the junior breakdancing category. That was truly rewarding for me as their coach. and something the kids won’t forget. I want them to learn that if you put in the hard work, you will be rewarded, and to walk away with eight titles last year was an achievement for all of us," he said.
Jonkers added that now that school will be starting, his holiday programme will run from 2-5 pm Monday to Sunday.
"Giving the kids a sense of belonging and a place of safety has always been the main reason why I do what I do, and they love it. It is something that they look forward to, and it’s something I don’t plan on giving up soon,” he added.
Jonkers said one of his primary goals for the future is to build a little dancing studio at his home, which would allow the kids to practice in a more structured environment.
"Right now, we are making use of the nearby field for our practices. Hopefully, I’ll be able to secure some funds to build a studio for them and continue with our work," he added.