Former gangster paves the way for Manenberg school

NABEELAH MOHEDEEN

A former gangster and substance abuser, Sabastian Haricombe, 25, has changed his life around by giving back to the community he once helped to terrorise, and it’s thanks to him that 100 pupils at Sonderend Primary School in Manenberg received new school shoes last Tuesday.

The school shoes ranged in price from about R70 to R95 a pair.

At the age of 10, Mr Haricombe joined the Naughty Boys gang, but after being stabbed four times, he decided to leave it, and by 18 he was going to church where he became a changed man. Four years ago, Mr Haricombe started volunteering at schools in Manenberg, talking to the children about drugs and gangsterism. One thing struck home for him: the children desperately needed shoes.

He asked the principals of Sonderend and Downville primary schools to write him a letter to take to people so that he could raise funds to buy the pupils school shoes for the next year. For months he walked through train carriages asking passengers for donations.

“I spoke to people on the trains, showing them the list and asking them to put money on it. We managed to get R1 300 for the first year, so we bought 20 pairs of school shoes and gave ten pairs to Sonderend and ten to Downville,” said Mr Haricombe. Armed with photographs of the kids getting their new shoes, Mr Haricombe approached companies for donations. Money started coming in from Koo Bananas, Cape Auto, Koeberg Fisheries, Millennium Plastic and church groups.

“We even sold cake door to door in Manenberg which was made by my mother. People told me we don’t have money, but I said it’s fine, give it Friday. We raised money like that. This year, we got a sponsor from Joburg, Joe’s Steel, who gave us R10 000. Lewis sponsored us too for two years with R5 500, R2 500 for the first year and R3 000 for the second year. The money was deposted in the school’s account, and the other money came from Paarl. People from Huguenot, outside of Mitchell’s Plain also gave us R3 000.They saw pictures of the handovers and belived me,” he said.

“I really want to thank the people for the past four years who trusted me with their money, and I want to send this message out to show them I appreciate it. Winter is coming, and we can’t give to the whole school but to the ones who really need it.”

Sonderend Primary School principal Leon Beukes said he was overwhelmed with the donation.

“This is something that Sebastian has done for over four years, but this year was the cherry on the cake. Over 100 pairs of shoes were donated. Many pupils come from single parents who can’t afford the school uniform, so this is a big help. There are children who come with broken shoes, now they can also feel they are part of the class, because sometimes there are pupils who make fun of them and that’s not good for education. As gangsterism goes on in the community, this is something positive.”

Mr Haricombe’s spiritual mentor, Loretta Fennel from Manenberg, was at Sonderend to witness the handover.

“This idea started when Sebastian came from gangsterism to the Lord. He prayed about it and then he got the go-ahead from God, that he has to run with this project. He knows what goes on outside the house and inside the house. His whole life is for people, he shakes his tin in Paarl and Huguenot and people just donate so that the children can have shoes for winter,” said Ms Fennel. “God will order their footsteps, we don’t want to see that this young boys turn to gangsterism anymore. We believe this year that these children will change Manenberg, we want a gangster-free Manenberg.”

Mr Haricombe hopes to reach six schools in Manenberg next year, making them sandwiches as well, and is appealing to the community for support. Call 060 708 7731 if you wish to assist.