The yellow RDP house in Site C, Khayelitsha, has been his home for nearly 30 years – but Mboneleli Gqirana will soon say goodbye to it after turning it into a safe space for young people in his neighbourhood.
Mboneleli (29) and his wife, Siphelele (28), hope their youth social innovation initiative, the iKhaya eLitsha Hub, will be “the most beautiful youth hub in the world, presenting state-of-the-art programmes to local youth and reviving the local economy”.
On their BackaBuddy fundraising page they write, “We’re tired of being bystanders as our community goes to ruins; criminal cartels demanding protection fees from innocent business people, youth being murdered every day because of unacceptably high levels of access to firearms and a hopelessness which is threatening to triumph over the innate innovative spirit of young people.
“Youth need this space to do their assignments, host meetings and events, access Wi-Fi, [hold] poetry nights [and] book sales and spread a wave of positivity that’ll surely revive the local economy, leading to increased rates of participation by our young people.”
This project has been “a long time coming,” the father of three tells YOU.
“I’m a fan of new beginnings and I’m a fan of starting afresh. It’s a sacrifice that we all have to make to understand why this is necessary for the family and the community at large as well.”
The notion of transforming his family
home into a community space has been with him since 2014, the community
developer tells us. Together with the Site C Youth Forum and Site C Community Action Network,
he and his wife registered Khaya eLitsha Hub as a non-profit company. The house
will have to be rezoned, Mboneleli says.
As a freelance community development worker, Mboneleli explains he designs and implements community projects, in collaboration with organisations, which “are geared towards creating opportunities for people to grow economically and change their material conditions”.
Mboneleli, who grew up in the house with his late mother, says he was inspired by her readiness to always lend a hand to her neighbours.
“People in the community would come to our house and share their problems,” he recalls.
Having worked for various development organisations over the past decade, Mboneleli says his life has been about uplifting the Khayelitsha community.
“I feel like there’s no physical space for young people to live out their ideas. When you try to access community halls and other municipal facilities that are meant to serve young people, it’s always a struggle or they charge you per hour. Some people don't have the money or the resources for that, but now people can come to the house and get free Wi-Fi and access to printers and laptops, which we were fortunate to get sponsored,” he says.
Now is the best time to get this project off the ground, he adds.
“Life is about risks and the jumps
we’re willing to take. Some are bigger than others but in terms of value and
symbolism I think this [hub] is needed for the young people in our township. It
couldn’t have come at a better time now that people are struggling to get jobs.
We need to start thinking creatively about our spaces and how people can come
together and work together.”
Next month he’ll meet community stakeholders to discuss possible partnerships and how to best utilise the house.
Giving up his family home wasn’t an easy process, he admits, but his wife has been very supportive.
“When you have someone who understands the person you are and the plans you have for the future, it’s much for easier. Plus, she also works in the community space.”
Siphelele works as a peer group trainer for
Hope Africa, an organisation that supports children and teens.
He told his siblings, Sikelelwa (16) Ongeziwe (13), and his eldest son, Anganathi (13), about his plan, and he was pleasantly surprised by their enthusiasm for it. Next week, the family will say goodbye to their home and move to a new house in Mfuleni in Cape Town. His younger kids, Alunamda (4) and Wavela (10 months), who moved to the Eastern Cape when lockdown began, will join them soon in their new home.
They’ll be renting for now until Mboneleli finalises the purchase of their permanent home, which they plan to move into early next year.
“We want to get started with the project first and have it up and running and then we’ll sort ourselves out. We’ve been waiting for this for the longest time.”