Everyone has dreams while growing up and it’s every child’s dream to be successful. The environment we live in, and the people we associate ourselves with, plays a huge role in what we become.

Everything was going according to plan for 13-year old Cindy, despite never having met her father and living in the rural areas where her dreams were restricted by some cultural principles. Her mother and five siblings were her only friends.

She lost the hope of becoming a Civil Engineer when her mother, the only person who supported her dream, died of leukaemia. She was in Grade 9 when this tragedy happened and, being the oldest amongst her siblings, she had to find a way to provide for her younger brothers and sisters. No relative of theirs wanted to take them in because they believed her mother had died of AIDS and they thought the children were also infected.

At the age of 17, life became tougher for Cindy. She started hanging out with bad friends who she later opened up to. They told her they had a solution to her problem. She had started to believe that her dreams were not important, and she had to do the washing for her neighbours in order to put food on the table for her siblings.

She was struggling to do her homework and, as a result, her marks dropped. She went back to her friends and asked them about the job they had talked about which she had turned down. For her new friends, this was the greatest news ever as they needed more distributors for their dagga business which was in great demand.

Her first week in the business went smoothly and she was able to do her homework as the stuff sold out at school and she managed to buy her siblings some clothes. As time went by, the business started to go slowly at school as there were too many distributors, which meant that she had to take the business to her community.

The news of her selling dagga soon went viral and the elders of the community were angry. They were scared for their children’s future and so they reported her to the police. She was fetched from school by the police where they arrested her as she had some dagga in her schoolbag. Her Court date came and she was sentenced to six years in prison. Her siblings were taken away by the social workers.

In prison she started to see life from a different perspective. She decided to pursue her dream of becoming a Civil Engineer. Though she missed her younger siblings, she also got a lot of time to concentrate on her studies. What kept her going was the thought of reuniting with them.

Back in the village, parents used Cindy as an example of a rotten potato that almost caused the damage to their children. Other parents went to prison to check if she was really rotting in jail. Cindy had become a completely different person in jail. She was active in the sport, stayed out of trouble and, before she knew it, had finished her Civil Engineering degree.

She was released from jail in her fifth year for good behaviour. She got her dream job in one of the biggest companies and she also managed to reunite with her siblings and give them the kind of life she never had.