Nanga Vhutshilo

One of the main things that Awake has helped me foster is my passion for education. I’ve always known that I want to educate people, and help them become more creative – but the opportunity to explore a variety of educational systems through content creation with Awake has truly cemented this interest. As a part of this content creation, I aimed to create a set of documentaries on a couple schools/childhood support mechanisms in Johannesburg. Nanga was one of them. Nanga Vhutshilo (which means “Choose Life”) is a centre which provides after school programs, early childhood education, and a variety of other means of support to vulnerable children and families. They have a specific set of programs which aim to help children and families who live with HIV. This means family visits, treatment follow ups, and training sessions. I wanted to make a documentary about Nanga, to understand how this kind of support can change the lives of those who are most vulnerable.

The first thing you notice when you enter Nanga is the colour. The sun shines down on beautiful cobblestone floors, and across multi-coloured trailers. It’s truly a space for young people to play, and to feel comfortable. That’s a beautiful part of Nanga – how welcoming it truly was. The space beckoned me in with its vibrant colours and gentle shade. The people were kind and passionate. It felt like an enclave where a child can feel at home away from home.

The next thing you notice is the people. The staff, the kids, and the organization’s leader (affectionately referred to as “Ma”) all beam a genuine care for the work they do and the people they help. The staff might have given me the best interview I’ve had in more than a year. Their answers were concise, clear, and intelligent – but what was the most impressive was how genuinely human they were. The kids were kind and excited to be a part of the project. I was surrounded by confident kids approaching me with smiles and waves. When I got the chance to interview them, their answers inspired me. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” had consistently brilliant answers: doctor, teacher, pilot, someone who helps people. And finally, Ma. She radiated love and was a magnet for respect. She knew exactly what she was doing, and why she was doing it. She cared about every child and staff there. She was humble always. I’ve really gained a profound respect for this organization and it’s people.
Finally, I was inspired by the philosophy. The goal at Nanga is to empower all the people that they work with. That’s the parents and the families who need help supporting their children. That’s the kids who are in vulnerable situations and need an education to make informed decisions for a better life. That’s any caregiver or child who lives with HIV/Aids and needs help managing that. It is all about them and their future. As Ma said “Never let your circumstances determine your destiny”. I don’t think there’s a better way to say it than that.

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