Siyolisi's Story

My name is Siyolisi Bani.

The township I live in is Masiphumelele. It is a very beautiful setting close to Cape Town, South Africa. There are big mountains behind us, and long sandy beaches close to us, but we don't get to enjoy either very much.  My mom has been out of work for a very long time.

I have two younger brothers and a young sister, and we have no father. When the wind blows, our whole shack moves - we feel every bit of cold, rain, wind, everything. It's not easy to sleep or to live here, but we dream of a different future.  

I really wanted to become someone. 

I wanted to help my mom, find my own work, stay away from drugs and be responsible. Even if you want all these things, you can't get it very easy where I live. In my community, boys and girls like me join gangs and do things no child should ever have to do.

One day made all the difference. It was the day when the Lalela facilitators came to my school to encourage students to join their arts education program. I was one of the first students to sign up! I love the arts, but I was never able to afford art supplies and my school did not provide art classes. This was the first time I could practice creativity, put my imagination and dreams to paper, and show it to others.  

I felt like Lalela became my family and the other students were my brothers and sisters. I started to understand that dreaming of a different life wasn't a bad thing, it was the beginning of a plan.  I joined every Lalela program, after school and during holidays. I couldn't get enough!

Lalela even set me up with an internship during my school holiday at a big hotel where people from all over the world would come to stay. The hotel and the internship became really very important to me, and then I became important to me too.

Then I had a bad day. I failed my matriculation exams, required tests to graduate high school. It was the worst day of my life.  Lalela encouraged me to keep trying. The arts process linked to education really supported me with my studies. Lalela even helped me find a quiet place to study.

With Lalela's help, I passed my exams and then Lalela hired me! I worked as a trainee facilitator for one year, supporting other students. I learned to plan my career, to meet people and grow.  I went from being so shy to learning to present my art, my plans and myself better.  I earned money and got my artist portfolio together. After a year, I applied to the Cape Peninsula University of Technology - and I got in!

Today, I am studying graphic design at the university, and I come back to Lalela whenever I can to help other students along.

At the end of the day, I know I am worth something.