Wednesday, October 2, 2013

This is one, mighty-inspiring, young, woman!

 Sometimes you are fortunate enough to meet someone so inspiring they leave you gasping in awe.
 Such a person is 19 year-old, shack-dweller, Martha Come, from Toekomsrus, Randfontein.
 Martha grew up without a father and five years ago the young woman's mother died, leaving behind a 13 year-old girl to care for both herself and her seven year-old brother, Jake.
 "My mom's family live in Mozambique. We have no-one here, so we had no option but to fend for ourselves," says Martha. "It was incredibly tough. Neighbours tried to help where they could but most of the time we had no groceries or money. However, I was determined I'd maintain our home and that my brother and I would live normal lives."
 It is school holidays but Martha is dressed in an immaculately-ironed school uniform.
 "I'm writing my matric exams at the end of the year and am attending holiday revision classes," she says. "So far my school results are very good but I've applied to study at three universities next year. I'll be competing for one of a very limited number of bursaries so I have to make sure I do well."
 It would have been very easy for Martha to fall into the clutches of a "Sugar Daddy" who, in return for favours, took care of her and her brother but that was an option she refused to even consider.
 "I promised I would never sell myself and my values," she says.


 The truth is, no-one knew about Martha and Jake's situation.
 "I told no-one...nobody at school knew I was the "parent" in a child-headed household," Martha says. "I guess, in some ways, I was afraid of what might happen. I worried my brother and I might be separated.
 It was a heavy load for a child to carry.
 "My school results suffered and on occasion I missed exams when my brother became ill and I was forced to stay home and care for him," she says.
 In 2010 she suffered a minor stroke that doctors believe was the result of stress.
 But help arrived in the form of Carryou Ministry, who encountered the siblings on one of the organisation's regular house-to-house visits.
 "We didn't know about Carryou before they came knocking at our door," Martha says. "Their help has made a huge difference in our lives. Every day we are able to get a hot meal at the Drop-in Centre and they helped us get the paper-work sorted so we could apply for a social grant.
 "They give us a monthly food parcel and school uniforms at the beginning of each year and they helped with my university applications."


 The home she shares with her brother is just a one-roomed shack not far from the Drop-in Centre but it is kept spotless and ship-shape.
 Martha is a young woman no no-one would blame for moaning about the hand life dealt her but she does not complain. She smiles constantly.
 "After my Mom's death I accepted my mission was to look after my brother and just decided to get on with it. I don't think I was cheated out of a childhood. I have enjoyed myself and am enormously proud of my brother who is doing well and excels at many things.
 "He is an excellent dancer and has dreams of one day becoming a professional (dancer) or maybe an engineer," she says. "I encourage him to do lots of different things.
 "We fight sometimes -- he is, after all a teenager -- but he makes me proud."
 Martha plans to study human resources or social work next year.
 "I've applied for bursaries but, if that doesn't work out, I'll find a job. I'm certainly not going to sit around and do nothing. At the moment I am looking for  temporary holiday work," she says.
 Despite her commitments and studying for her final school exams, Martha makes a point of spending time with her brother.
 "I work on keeping our bond strong by going out and just having fun with him," she says. "I also make time for my duties as a church Youth Leader, play netball and sing in the church choir."

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