Soka Mngadi (pictured far right) lives in KwaNyuswa in the Valley of 1000 Hills with his family. The 64 year-old retired four years ago having worked in Durban as a landscaper and maintenance worker for many years. Over the past 14 months, Soka has been on a self-proclaimed journey of discovery, a journey which has consequently brought him much closer to both his three children and four grandchildren.
“I never thought I could learn so many new things at my age, but I have surprised myself,” says Soka, who bakc in October 2017, was one of the first men to attend one of the Hillcrest AIDS Centre Trust’s (HACT) 6-week Parenting Skills & Children’s Rights training courses. Originally intended to help gogos (grandmothers) who were struggling with the emotional burden of raising their orphaned grandchildren, HACT also opened up the training course to a handful of local grandfathers who felt they could also benefit from the practical training.
“I’ve never done anything like that,” says an obviously proud Soka, “the training made me think about things differently. I learnt that children have a voice and a right to speak and be listened to in the home, this is very different to what we are taught as men.” Soka adds, “I enjoy talking with my children and grandchildren now, we talk a lot more and I have learned from them.”
In addition to helping Soka build a closer relationship with his young family members, the training course also provided him with an opportunity to connect with other local mkhulus (grandfathers) such as himself, four of whom he now meets up with on a regular basis. “after the training we continued to meet and talk and now we have plans to work together to help our families and community,” explains Soka.
Together, the group have identified and sought permission to use a piece of land nearby their homesteads to start a large community vegetable garden. Using Soka’s many years of gardening expertise, they hope to grow enough vegetables to help feed not only their own families, but others in need too. “We want to help feed the children in our community,” says group member, Petros Myeni, “we may be old, but we can still do something to help…”
The Hillcrest AIDS Centre Trust is appealing to the wider community to assist them in getting Soka and his groups’ community vegetable garden off the ground. “We can help supply them with seedlings from our Plant Nursery,” says HACT’s Marketing & Fundraising Manager, Claire Hodgkinson, “but any donations of new or second hand fencing and gardening tools would be greatly appreciated too.” If you would like to assist, please contact Claire on 031 765 5866 / firstname.lastname@example.org