Woman turns pain of son’s death to hope

Avril Andrews, Nawaal Johanessen, Zaida Andrews and Lesley Wyngaard.

When 27-year-old Alcardo Andrews was shot dead for refusing to join a gang, his mother found herself with a choice to make.

“I had to choose to be bitter or better, and I decided to be better so that my family could heal,” says Avril Andrews, recalling the anguish that followed her son’s death.

Alcardo tried to flee from his killers but was gunned down in Athburg Road, Hanover Park, on October 28 2015. He left behind a wife, Jody, and a son, Levi, who was just 4 when his father died. Avril says Alcardo wanted to start a support group for single dads, helping them to become better fathers, and he spoke about those plans a few months before his death.

“He explained to me that gangsterism is taking its toll on the community and the youth and that if they don’t join they are going to be killed,” says Avril.

“The day before he died, he stopped a guy from robbing a 78-year-old woman, and I told him that they were watching him, but he said if he must die for the cause, then he would.”

Alcardo’s death dealt a painful blow to the family, but Avril says she knew she had to pick herself up and fight through her grief to help her family heal and to build on Alcardo’s vision.

In 2015, she launched The Alcardo Andrews Foundation, a non-profit organisation, in memory of her son.

“My son was passionate about helping the community, and he had high hopes for Hanover Park, but he said that parents need to understand what the challenges are facing the community, and he said that there was a lot of information that was not filtered down to parents.”

The foundation has six pillars: the Moms Move for Justice Peace and Reconciliation group gives support and advice to single parents and traumatised women and men; Komkids helps children with homework and assignments and runs after-school activities; Youth With a Purpose offers mentoring, study support and after-care for youngsters struggling at school; Fathers Hearts draws fathers of all ages together to share problems and give advice; a feeding scheme hands out food parcels to about 200 people daily from Avril’s home; and the hiking club runs regular hikes for all the groups.

Lesley Wyngaard is the foundation’s operational manager. Her 23-year-old son, Rory Wyngaard, was murdered outside a night club in 2016. She heard about Moms Move for Justice, Peace and Reconciliation while at court during her son’s murder trial.

“As much as it is a painful experience, being in a community where I can help others really heals me. I have found my purpose, and I was called to fulfil it,” she says.

Avril’s daughter-in-law, Zaida Andrews, is the leader of Youth With a Purpose. She says they get youngsters – especially those caught up in abuse, neglect and other domestic strife – off the streets and stop them making bad life choices.

“Gangsterism, drugs, bullying and abuse is what the youth face in Hanover Park. Some of the girls in the group don’t have clothing or toiletries and that is our challenge,” says Zaida. “We try our best to get donations for them so that they have and they speak about their challenges to us, and we see where we can help them. I’ve always had a passion to work with kids and youth, and once I started working here my heart opened to them.”

For more information or to make donations call Lesley at 083 263 6052.