How 18-year-old Xolisa is chasing his pilot dreams

Xolisa Shenxani is hard at work making his dream to become a pilot come true
Xolisa Shenxani is hard at work making his dream to become a pilot come true

Seeing young people chase their dreams in the face of adversity never fails to warm our hearts. 18-year-old Xolisa Shenxani from Sir Lowry’s Pass Village in Cape Town happens to be one of those people.

This young fellow had dreams of becoming a pilot ever since he was a child. “I used to look up into the air and see helicopters fly over my house but I didn't know what they were. I thought, 'I would love to fly that thing!', but I wasn't sure if people could fly in it.” Fast forward a couple of years and he’s well on his way to doing exactly that.

Do you have an inspiring story of young people reaching for their dreams? Send us your comments and we could publish them.

Xolisa says his mind was set on becoming a pilot once he saw the interior of a helicopter in Grade 1 or 2. His dreams took flight after meeting representatives from the South African Air Force during the Langebaanweg Air Show in 2017. There, he was given the proposition that if he meet the academic matric requirements and agreed to work for the SAAF after completing his training, he could train to become a pilot – free of charge!

His passion is certainly paying off.


It certainly wasn’t an easy road though. Xolisa lost his mother at the tender of 7 and he moved from household to household, looking for a place to fit in. Fortunately, he sees the silver lining of all his hardships and troubling times.

“In those challenges, I learned lots of lessons. It made me the person I am today. I told myself that I wasn’t going to give up, even though I was going through all the challenges. My mother told me I must do my best in everything I do and that life wasn't going to be easy.”

We’re sure his mother is incredibly proud right now.

Xolisa currently lives with his aunt, uncle and 2 cousins in Cape Town where he can be found playing soccer as the captain of the Chaka Pioneers when he’s not studying.

Also see: Gifted children from around the world

According to Philip Bellstedt, who met Xolisa three years ago through a Maths tutoring program called Discovery Club, the young man is a well-respected role model in his community, who attended regularly and remained committed to his studies. 

Philip says Xolisa was quite the bright, hard-working student. “With a tiny bit of help once a week, he managed to improve his maths dramatically and by the end of 2016, he received the prize for the most improved in maths in his grade. I got to see first-hand not only his academic potential but his leadership skills."

Xolisa studying

Unfortunately, some more challenges arose for Xolisa, including overcrowded classrooms and learner strikes. He tried changing schools but the only ones accessible by public transport were over-filled. 

Philip and his girlfriend, Samantha Lee, then stepped in, not wanting to see all Xolisa’s potential go to waste, so they toured private schools until deciding on False Bay High School.

Also see: Actually, all the cool kids AREN'T doing it

Next steps

Xolisa is adjusting well to the new school despite having to catch up on work from Grade 10. His dedication allows him to attend extra Maths, Science and English lessons so he can qualify for the Air Force pilot training program. Xolisa also lives with Philip’s parents, Dirk (64) and Friederike Bellstedt (63), during the week in order to fully focus on his schooling.

Philip took the initiative to start a campaign for Xolisa on BackaBuddy, a donations-based crowdfunding platform, as an appeal to the public to help support his education. The campaign aims to cover the R39 651 shortfall of Xolisa’s Grade 11 year and the cost of his matric year, estimated to cost R50 970. Philip has supported Xolisa’s education with personal funds as well. 

Xolisa and friends

From left to right: Philip, Tymen, Jason, Xolisa and Siyabonga.

Xolisa’s BackaBuddy campaign went live on 29 March 2018 and has so far raised just over R75 000 of the of R187 800 target, with contributions from 25 donors. "Funds raised are managed directly by BackaBuddy NPC and are paid directly to False Bay High School for Xolisa’a education. Donors will receive regular updates on Xolisa’s progress should they wish to show their support,” says Zane Groenewald, BackaBuddy public relations officer.

Also see: How three boys saved a man from jumping off a bridge

Xolisa would like to share a special thank you message to his supporters:

"I'm very grateful to everyone that has supported by BackaBuddy campaign. I never thought I would be in a private school. It's the best opportunity ever! There are lots of kids out there, who also need help. I hope one day that I could do for someone else what is being done for me," he says.

This young man sure does have a bright future ahead of him, and we’re cheering him on every step of the way. 

Click here to make a donation to Xolisa’s campaign on BackaBuddy.

Chat back

What are some of the inspiring stories you've heard of young people reaching for their dreams? Send us your comments and we could publish them. Do let us know if you'd like to remain anonymous.

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