Vehicles of hope on North Coast

This weekend Shaka’s Head will be given over to metal and petrol, with Ferraris, Maseratis and American muscle cars prowling the streets for the good of a local community centre.

The Ithemba Labasha Community Centre was chosen by the event organisers and the local municipality as the sole beneficiary of the Ballito Street Heroes event, with all proceeds raised during the cocktail party charity auction on 13 September to be channelled into its youth support programme. The programme has helped many of the area’s vulnerable youth who are in need of direction and support.

Ballito Street heroes 1Doreen Yengwa and three of the children from Shaka’s Head getting up close and personal with a Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG, one of the many cars that will be on show this weekend (Image: Ballito Street Heroes)With such a wide array of collectable vehicles on show, people are expected to queue up to set their eyes on these marvels of engineering. Edusport, along with iLembe Chamber of Commerce as well as Ballito Auto SMD, the sponsors for the event, will host Ballito Street Heroes on 14 and 15 September. It is set to provide much-needed funding to the local community centre and the residents of Shaka’s Head, a township in Ballito, on the gorgeous North Coast of KwaZulu-Natal.

Ithemba Labasha started in early 2007 by a group of women from Shaka’s Head who were driven to act by the number of children in the township struggling to live normal lives. They could not stand to see the children suffering: among them were youth infected with or affected by HIV and Aids; youth from poverty-stricken households; or youth who were neglected parents who were either victims of substance abuse or simply shunned their responsibility towards their children.

Doreen Yengwa, the manager of the Ithemba Labasha Community Centre, says there is much poverty in Shaka’s Head and residents often struggle to make ends meet. There is a lack of employment, or illness, and alcohol and drug abuse. Because of this, she and some other women in the region felt the need to set up a structure that would provide the children at risk with the tools for them to one day change their own lives and become contributing members of society.

The community centre looks after about 300 orphans and children at risk between the ages of 18 months and 18 years and also caters to the needs of the elderly living in the area. But the organisation lost its main donor in early 2012, and funding to continue operating has been an issue. “We help the kids with their homework, play sport with them, and give them a hot meal. For some it is their only hot meal of the day,” Yengwa explains, in highlighting the importance of the centre to the community.

Ballito Street Heroes 2The community centre looks after about 300 orphans and children at risk between the ages of 18 months and 18 years and also caters to the needs of the elderly living in the area“We are trying to keep them off the street, educate them, and provide a safe environment for them to grow in. We were chosen [as the beneficiaries of Ballito Street Heroes] because we are a local NGO in need. Ithemba Labasha Community Centre has been going for seven years but do not have a permanent donor at the moment.”

Apart from raising funds, the spectacle will also provide a temporary source of income for some people by creating about 45 jobs during its preparation and hosting. Before the show begins, there will be a cocktail party fundraiser on Friday, 13 September during which a charity auction will take place to raise the bulk of the donations.

Yengwa adds: “What makes me happy about doing what I do is knowing that I have given these children a haven, a place where they know they are cared for and a place where they can talk about their problems and know that there is someone listening with an open heart. I also get a pleasure in seeing some of these kids change their lives with the help of the community centre and go on to become constructive members of society.”

To make a donation to the Ithemba Labasha Community Centre, contact Doreen Yengwa on 072 941 0147 or 078 298 4145, and Play Your Part.