Long time ago there was the difference between grandparents, parents, youth and children. But nowadays there’s no difference at all. Nowadays each and every day there’s something bad and painful happening.

I remember when I was 16 years old I was a gang member. I was drinking alcohol each and every weekend and I was stealing, doing house breaking, beating and doing bad things to innocent people. I became the most wanted person in our community because of the things I was doing. It became so bad that I was not sleeping in the house anymore because the police were looking for me. I would sleep on top of the house or on top of the tree with an open knife in my hand. I was always ready for any action.

At that time I didn’t know that education was my only key to success because I was always thinking and doing negative things. My grandmother and my mother were always in pain and always crying because of the things I was doing. I ended up leaving the school because I was running away so that police couldn’t find me.

I ran away from home and ended up in the city. It was not easy for me to live the way I was thinking, it was like living in another planet. The people I thought were my friends deserted me and I found myself all alone. For the first time I saw the city: busy traffic with so many cars, trucks, buses and taxis making lots of noise. I didn’t know where I was and I didn’t know where I was going to sleep.

I was so dizzy, tired, thirsty and hungry and I didn’t know what to do.

As I was walking down the street I saw some dirty and smelly kids eating and drinking from the dust bin. Some were begging for food and money at the robots. I tried to join them because I was so hungry. They stopped me and they told me to go away because they didn’t know me. I just sat at the bus stop and starred at them.

One of them came to me with a big plastic bag. It was full of old pieces of bread, old juice and cool-drink. He asked me where I was coming from and I told him.

“Give me your clothes and shoes and I will give you something to eat and something to drink,” he said. I looked at him as though he was crazy. “I’ll give you a place to sleep too,” he added.

I was so hungry, tired, lonely and thirsty. I gave them to him and he gave me his old dirty and smelly clothes and shoes. The clothes were even big on me and I looked a zombie. The bread was a bit rotten and hard to swallow and the juice tested badly.

It was like I was in hell and I started wondering and asking myself too many questions.

Around nine o’clock at night he called me and said we should go. We went to an old building full of cracks and without doors, windows or a roof. When we arrived there they started a fire and they sat around the fire singing, making jokes, eating, smooking glue, nyaope and dagga. I was tired and he gave me few boxes, a big plastic and one blanket for me to sleep.

And early in the morning around four o’clock we woke up and went to the robots to beg, others went to collect boxes, plastic and plastic bottles to sell. We always slept with one eye open because we were sleeping everywhere and the police were always arresting us. Sometimes we would steal and rob innocent people. Some of us were dying because of drugs, cold, accident and we were even stabbing each other when we were fighting.

I stayed with them for a year and decided my life needed to change. I got a job as gardener, then put up a shack in township close by. After a while I even started attending afternoon classes so that I could finish my matric. I ended up passing my Grade 12. Even when I went home they were surprised because I was a changed man.

It wasn’t easy but it was possible. I now have a girlfriend and a son. I am changed man.