I grew up in the SOS Children’s Village in Cape Town, part of SOS Children’s Villages, an international group of orphanages first founded in 1949 by Hermann Gmeiner, an Austrian medical doctor who saw the suffering of children after World War II.
These villages are funded by the government and by international sponsors who give back to the community. These children are taken into care by order of the court, either because the mother or the rest of the family cannot take care of the child or the surroundings are not safe for the child. At these villages, up to six kids up to the age 16 live in one house and are cared for by an SOS mother. The housemother would usually have an assistant, called an aunty, which allows the mother to go back to her own family every third weekend. This would allow the aunty to also take responsibility for the children. I arrived at the age of six, to the most awesome mother called Rose. This is where my love and passion for cooking came into being – Rose was an amazing cook and she taught us well. She also instilled a love of music in me. Listening to jazz and rhythm and blues every Saturday morning would soothe my soul. I went to school like any other normal child in the community. This is where I met my best friend, Amkela. He was the friend I would speak with when I felt isolated and lonely, because growing up in an orphanage was not easy since, despite having the SOS family, you still yearn to have a good family of your very own. Amkela and I also had fun, though. We share the best memories and are still good friends today.
At the age of 16 I began receiving careers guidance and had the amazing opportunity to participate in the GoTeach Program, a successful youth partnership between the SOS Children’s Villages and DHL, which was formed in 2010. This program helps foster work opportunities for disadvantaged children and youth in over 40 countries. I am now a regional ambassador for the program.
DHL in Cape Town is my “home away from home.” I met my mentor Nisa Ebrahim there, who was not only an inspiration for me but someone I could ask for guidance and support in the work environment. Here I received training in Freight Forwarding and Customs Compliance as well as training in Procurement and Supply Chain Management.
I have dedicated my life to youth empowerment and continue to offer my volunteer services to both DHL and SOS Children’s Villages. My commitment to help improve the lives of impoverished young people remains my true mission.
My favorite quote is: “Life is like a roller coaster and a blessing. How you handle your ups and downs in life will depend on the choices you make.”
This is what life is all about – and overall, I am truly thankful for everything, each day. — Keeper Bonase