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Martha, one of our volunteers, was interested in Zilungele’s experience at Amava Oluntu. Here is what she is sharing with us:

“I interviewed Zilungele Ngoma about his work and his journey with Amava so far. Zilungele exudes passion, he is the definition of breathing your work. Currently, he contributes his skills and knowledge as a volunteer worker at New World Foundation based in Lavender Hill. He has been with the organisation for almost two years. His drive comes from community development and his desire to see change in his community. His background has significantly contributed to this dedication. He grew up in a community where drug addiction, broken homes, and gangsters were not only a threat but a lived reality for many. He considers it his prerogative to be the change the community needs.

Pollinating Pride in People Certificate

Zilungele and his well deserved Pollinating Pride in People certificate!

He came into contact with Amava through Facebook and signed up for a course. What attracted him to Amava is that the organisation encourages a collective approach to addressing challenges faced by local communities. He’s been working with Amava for six months.

“Amava believes in diversity and inclusion and that is something I hold dear in my heart”, Gideon shared. Reconnection of different people and starting conversations that matter is what he appreciates most about his interaction with Amava so far. We truly have more in common than we have differences; that is what Amava emphasises.

People and working hard

“I have reconnected with myself, with who I am. That has brought things out of me that I would not be able to bring out of myself”, he reiterated. This is a value he shares with many at Amava.

As we get deeper in conversation, Zilungele reveals that he himself came from a broken home. He lived on the street from the age of eleven years until he went to prison for seven years in 2013. He was released in 2019. During his time in prison, he was addicted to drugs and involved in prison gangs. At this point my heart sank. Not only because I was surprised at his story because Gideon dresses so well and speaks with such confidence. You’d never guess by just looking at him that he’d been to prison or that he had such a painful past; but that is the danger of assumption. I compose myself and adjust to hear his story in his own words.

collage of people at Amava

Enjoying his time with the Amava group.

His experiences have informed his work as a non-profit worker. “No child should be living on the street at eleven, no child should be involved in gangsterism”, he says with heart-breaking conviction.

“It has been good, the educational part of it has been great. I have learnt a lot”, he says in his bubbly, confident voice referencing his time with Amava.

Handmade bookmarks

Zilungele’s hard work and designs have paid off with his expressive bookmarks.

He says his experiences with Amava will be beneficial to his work. Going back to his first interaction with Amava, he appreciated how laid back the culture was. So far, he is most proud of the bookmarks he has designed for his start-up. He says he did not know that he could be creative and create such a product. His vision is to continue to build his skills and network to effectively work with young people in the community, families, and also youth in prison. He is focused on empowering and educating himself on working with communities and one day have a community building organisation.

As my time with Zilungele came to an end, I could not stop thinking how we just don’t know someone until we know and understand their story. Zilungele beams with positive energy. He is hopeful for the future and looks at his past with empathy for those experiencing what he went through.”

Are you interested in Zilungele and the projects he’s involved in? Learn more here or consider a donation!

Martha Machawi

I am an early stage tech entrepreneur committed to helping solve Africa's most pressing problems; youth unemployment, inequality and access to quality education and healthcare. In my spare time I volunteer, and appreciate art and photography.