From drug addict to mountaineer

An inspiration for everybody

This is a story of a young man, David (not his real name) who was, like so many people, bullied at school and became very traumatised by this incessant bullying and at the age of 19 left school before completing his grade 10. He stayed with my mother, two uncles, and his two siblings in a three roomed flat with one bedroom, a lounge and a tiny kitchen. His mother and sister slept in the bedroom and his uncles and he shared the lounge as their bedroom. His mother worked long hour as a maid in Sandton and as a result was hardly at home. Despite being away from home a great deal, she did love her children but she was a very strict and took her children to church every Sunday.

Growing up in this environment, with their mother working long hours, David and his siblings did not have a mentor. His uncle drank a lot and verbally abused him and as a result he argued a lot with him and so he opted to stay in the street to avoid this consistent confrontation. Three months after leaving school David found a job as a packer at one of the leading supermarkets, where he met a friend, who introduced him to drugs.

He said drugs are a tool for alleviating personal pain and work stress. David`s home life was in turmoil, communications was difficult, and everyone was dealing with their own challenges and problems. David went to church with his mother and sister, his one uncle went to his own church, and his alcoholic uncle dealt with his pain by abusing alcohol and caused a lot of tension in the house. David’s church going uncle warned him not to get involved in wayward activities and said if he continued his bad behaviour he would end up in prison or even get himself killed. David avoided being at home in the evenings because there was no space for everyone and he wanted to avoid fighting with his alcoholic uncle and did not want to listen to more lectures from his church going uncle. While on the streets, he found friends who were in a similar situation, they had no role models and were their own bosses.

They enjoyed telling stories and dreaming how to make money. David smoked Nyaope, Ndanda (pills mixed dagga) – bought from his suppliers in the area he lived in. They were high most of the time, and had great ideas of how to break into people’s houses or to steal from neighbours to pay for their next dose of nyaope. (Nyaope is a highly addictive cheap drug, easily available in the streets of most townships). David and his friends often planned break-ins before smoking and then would smoke to get more confidence and inner strength to carry on with their plans. David and his friends excelled at breaking into people’s houses and stealing valuable items, which they sold and now had more money and were introduced to a slightly expensive drug – called CAT which easily available from the drug suppliers. One day David had an argument and a fight with a friend, who was now sacred that David would fight with him again and so and he devised a plan to send David to prison. He went to the police station and laid a complaint that David owned a few guns.

The police arrested David and beat him to get him to confess as to where he hid these guns. He was kept in the holding cell for
six months while the police were investigating. Luckily nothing was found against him and he was released. In 2016 David was caught by police for drug possession. He did not serve any term but was released under parental guidance. He made a promise to the judge that he will leave drugs but sadly he was addicted and could not stop. David, now living on the streets, soon found another job which was to find clients to sell and deliver drugs to. He was introduced to more complex drugs which he was given and told that these drugs will give us wisdom and make us fearless. David worked for this “company” for a year. One day David woke up and knew he had to do something about this drug problem and realised that his life would soon end if he did not change his ways. He made a decision to go back to church. He left the strong drugs immediately but struggled to wean himself from dagga and ordinary cigarettes. David began volunteering at the Rivers foundation to help with preparation of lunch for school kids, where he met Nuska, the head of the foundation who paid for me to attend a youth conference.

Nuska offered accommodation to a few youth who were attending the conference and David asked if he could be given a place to share with the other youth. After the conference he requested for “permanent” accommodation, which Nuska provided. David now realised that there was good life away from drugs. He started a training routine: running, weight lifting and boxing and a year later David is now clean from drugs. He attends church every weekend and is planning to join the church as a member and to get baptised. A few months ago, David was introduced to a group of people that are planning to climb Mount Kilimanjaro and he has now been practising with them and wants to join them and climb Mt Kilimanjaro to prove to himself that anything is possible and for people to realise that no mountain is too high to conquer. David would like to plant a flag on top of Kilimanjaro on behalf of all the drug abusers especially the township youth, and the school boys that are addicted to drugs and they end up getting involved in mindless activities like beating their teachers or raping their fellow students,
their mums sisters, grannies and neighbours. David has shown that if you really want to do something, you can. He survived a life of drugs, and beat the pessimisms who said “once hooked, forever hooked, and has shown that “nothing is impossible”. David’s dream is to start an NGO that would help many youth to actualise their dreams. Please help David to climb Kilimanjaro and plant that flag! If you would like to make a difference and help get David to the top of his mountain please contact Nuska at nuska.zwane@ riversfoundation.org.za www.riversfoundation.org.za

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