Skhumbule Nqabeni makes a living for himself from rubbish. The 23-year-old from Bloekombos is disabled. He collects discarded boxes for recycling.
Every day, Skhumbule walks several kilometres to various places in the community where boxes are dumped.
He collects as much as he can carry at a time, taking it back to his home, where he sorts and folds them for recycling.
Three years ago he had no idea that he could make a living out of rubbish.
He spent his days shifting about with friends.
One day, while loitering, they met Mzuvukile Benayo who runs Angels of Hope.
Mr Benayo told the young men that there was money to be made from collecting and recycling the rubbish.
They tried it but after a few days most of them gave up. Except Skhumbule, who kept at it and is still sustaining himself in this way today.
What Skhumbule learnt from Mr Benayo is in essence what the non-government organisation Angels of Hope is all about.
The NGO aims to bring about social upliftment by providing skills and mentoring youth, and educating people out of apathetic, instant gratification mindsets, Mr Benayo said.
“It’s a cracker snack thinking that says; ‘We want this now. We don’t want to sweat for it’,” Mr Benayo said.
Angels of Hope is based at the Salvation Church in Bloekombos. The church is built from corrugated sheeting on a patch of rented council ground. The land is unfenced and, as a result, the area around the church has been dug up by people needing building sand.
Later, others came and dumped on the ground, leaving a holey mess for the church to clean up.
“It’s money that has been thrown on the ground because that can be recycled,” Mr Benayo said.
“We teach people to pick it up and recycle it and earn an income like that. There are people in the community, grown ups that are putting children through school by money made from recycling.”
Angels of Hope was established in 2011 when it functioned as a church outreach organisation, which operated mostly within its own congregation.
“People in church would have problems but they were afraid to come forward and ask for help. So we started a spiritual counselling group that visited people at their homes and helped them,” Mr Benayo said.
Not all the problems the group found themselves aiding were spiritual. A great many were practical everyday struggles, like battling to get grants or to find work. The group continued to help and soon the counsellors found people from outside the church congregation coming to them too.
In 2015 the counselling group graduated into a fully-fledged NGO, which ministered to the broader community and had partnerships with multiple other outreach organisations.
Its focus had changed too and the Angels of Hope found themselves growing vegetable gardens at schools, connecting youth to skills programmes, running afterschool programmes, teaching the community about recycling and changing skewed mindsets.
“Sometimes when we go into communities, people will come to us and say, ‘There’s no work because the government is not working.’
And we’d say, ‘But do you know how government works?’ And we educate them,” Mr Benayo said.
And all the while the NGO continues to grow.
“We grow because we educate people and they come back to us,” Mr Benayo said.
The Angels’ latest endeavour is a sewing project which creates a platform where older matriarchs teach younger girls to sew. They are looking for sewing supplies and a suitable space to kick the project off.
* If you can assist call Mr Benayo on 073 822 3994.