Shaka Sisulu is turning heads as he injects fun into charity through his non-profit organisation, Cheesekids for Humanity. (Image: Cheesekids)
Shaka Sisulu, grandson of the late African National Congress stalwarts Walter and Albertina Sisulu, will appear on the next episode of the Play Your Part television series on 6 July, at 9pm. The series is broadcast on SABC2.
Sisulu is turning heads as he injects fun into charity by helping underprivileged mothers and children through his non-profit organisation, Cheesekids for Humanity. Cheesekids is a broad-based volunteer movement. It’s a youth-orientated community service platform with the main purpose to encourage privileged South African youth to contribute regularly to the upliftment and empowerment of less fortunate communities.
“Cheesekids organises events and activities where young people like you volunteer their time, labour, and creativity towards various needs identified in local townships and informal settlements,” it says. “So if kids are hungry at school, we try to figure out a smart way and sustainable way of fixing the problem without throwing money at it.”
Sisulu remembers his awakening: “The year 2007. One cool autumn day. A couple of friends invited me on a ‘build’. It was a building of a house in Ivory Park [a Joburg township] sponsored by Habitat for Humanity. Some of my friends had done it before and raved about it and I was only too happy to get out of my own private Idaho of soap opera living for an afternoon.
“It was possibly one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life. I had never seen so many ‘cheesekids’ get stuck into such manual labour with such aplomb,” he says. “The feeling of being able with my bare hands to help ones less fortunate than me with the bare necessities was inexplicable. The bond amongst friends coming together to help out for a common cause was surreal.
“Understanding the deprivation and degradation so many of our countrymen live with day-to-day was also an eye-opener for me. And so I got the bug. It became a monthly occurrence. And one such day the term ‘Cheesekids’ was born. A tongue-in-cheek reference to the fact that we were all coming from and going back to completely different lives. The phrase comes from an old township [and sometimes derogatory] slang for kids of affluent or well-off families – the kids who have cheese in the fridge.”
Once all the homes in the quota were built, Sisulu noted a strong need to continue building. “Friends brought in their friends. It seems that for so many people the yearning to give back had found an outlet of sorts.”
Over the past few years, he says, he has been very privileged to be part of an incredible movement of young people answering the question of “what can we do” brick by brick, brush by brush and shovel by barrow.
The organisation has to date hosted over 30 000 Cheesekids volunteers who have helped build, plaster and paint houses; clean up schools; wash orphans’ clothes; tutor and mentor; pick up litter; feed and clothe the homeless, indigent and abused; plant vegetable gardens and de-weed lawns; read to, play with and bring smiles to children in Soweto, Tembisa, Alexandra, Diepsloot, Mamelodi, inner city Johannesburg, Orange Farm, Khayelitsha and many other places of desolation and desperation across South Africa.