Dignity was restored at eight schools in Manenberg after 160 children received new school shoes, thanks to a good Samaritan, Sebastian Haricombe.
Mr Haricombe started the charity drive six years ago when he realised that many children go to school with no or broken school shoes, or even takkies and often suffer from a low self-esteem or confidence issues because they don’t have proper school shoes.
Mr Haricombe knows what it’s like to be surrounded by social ills such as crime and gangsterism on the Cape Flats as he joined the Naughty Boys gang at the age of 10. After being stabbed four times, he decided to leave this life and by age 18 he was going to church where he became a changed man.
He said many children on the Cape Flats have to fight the cycle of joining a gang to survive and often their parents can’t afford to buy them new things so the school shoes donation would come in handy.
Six years ago he started volunteering at schools in Manenberg, where he spoke to children about drugs and gangsterism. When he looked at the children one thing struck home for him – the children desperately needed shoes.
He started to approach businesses and residents for donations and even asked bus commuters and train passengers to donate.
This year 20 children from each school namely, Sonderend, Edendale, Primrose Park, Saambou, Silverstream, Easter Peak, Talfalah, and Downville primary schools, received new school shoes.
Primrose Park Primary School’s foundation phase head of department, Ruwayda Hendricks, who was Mr Haricombe’s Grade 3 teacher, said although he was a naughty little boy who ended up joining a gang at a young age, she never pushed him away and instead gave words of encouragement and always offered him sweets.
“Years later he walked into the school with a suit and tie and I almost fell on my back. He has been donating to the school for the past three years. Last week he came and said, ‘ Teacher I am here like I promised’. The smiling faces of the children were priceless. They kept asking when is uncle Sebastian coming. They look so smart with their new shoes, they really appreciate it,” she said.
Ms Hendricks said the children are busy writing letters to thank Mr Haricombe for his selflessness.
Mr Haricombe said the children at the various schools were ecstatic about their new school shoes. “One girl even cried at Silverstream Primary School. They were so happy to receive their shoes as their shoes were very broken,” he said.
This year some of the sponsors include the Manenberg Community Development Trust, Elite Cash and Carry, Cool Bananas, Adams Butcher, Manenberg Meat Market, a hardware store in Manenberg, and resident Natasha Naicker.
This is the second year that Ms Naicker has supported the drive as she grew up without a father and said she knows what it is like to struggle.
Mr Haricombe thanked all the sponsors and the community at large. “Thank you to everyone in the community, and the people in the bus and trains, and those in Atlantis. Thanks to all those who helped to raise funds by filling the tins,” he said.
Grade 2 teacher at Talfalah Primary School, Mandy Stevens, said the donation was such a blessing. “The joy on their faces were priceless. They had holes in their shoes to the point where their toes were showing. They were really in need of shoes as their shoes were so broken,” she said.