THE POWER OF HOLDING TIGHT TO A DREAM
Sinethemba Dyasi, 18, is difficult to describe. His passion and lust for life are contagious. Sinethemba’s life proves that extreme poverty and the difficulty of having teenage parents does not need to determine who you become. Today, he shares with us his hardships and successes with a big smile.
Sinethemba, originally from Cross Roads, was born from a teenager relationship - his mom was 16 and his dad was 17. They both attended the same school and were dating for few months before his mom found out she was pregnant. ‘When my father found out about the pregnancy, he rejected my mother and me.’
In his early life, Sinethemba was raised by his maternal grandparents and his biological mother became his sister, ‘At the age of five, I got to know who my mother was through her peers. They visited our home on their way from school, and one of them pointed at me and said, “so is this your child? He is growing fast.” To know the truth did not change our relationship in any way and we continued to be as distant as before’.
‘We used to be eight people in our one room shack: my grandparents, my mom, her two sisters, her two brothers and myself. Around this time, my grandparents separated, ‘each fortnight, my grandfather came home drunk and started shouting for food. My grandmother’s routine was to ask each of her kids to go out to the neighbours and ask for something. Someone will bring a potato; another will bring some mielie meal and so on. The little things gathered made the family meal, but for my grandfather it was never enough. The evenings where he was drunk used to end up with him beating up my grandmother and all the children retaliating and beating him back. I still remember how our neighbours used to sit outside on their beer crates to enjoy the show.’
When he finally left, my grandmother took care of the family by herself. She used to work as a domestic worker, a maximum of two days a week. On Saturdays she borrowed a train ticket from a neighbour and went to a Bonteheuwel slaughterhouse where she collected the bones that were thrown away. Those bones, plus the packet of mielie meal that she was able to afford with her little salary, became our food for the month. In our home breakfast, lunch and dinner was one meal. We ate once, in the evening.’
‘What kept me motivated at this young age, was the closeness with my aunty. She was only three years older than me and even though we did not have food, we still had a small and old TV. What we watched inspired us both and after each show we imitated everything we saw. We always fought about who was going to be the presenter for the night. Each day, we would bet who will appear in TV first, this bet kept us motivated. We used to fall asleep on the small mattress we shared with smiles on our faces thinking about the future.’
Sinethemba’s paternal grandmother continued observing from a distance. When she finally saw the resemblance in her son and Sinethemba, she started inviting Sinethemba to visit during holidays. At the age of 11, Sinethemba asked this grandmother if she could ‘borrow’ him from his other family, ‘I knew I wanted to live with her. She was sweeter and she lived in a real house. I was so surprised when she said yes.’
Sinethemba felt his life was moving forward but this transition turned out to not be an easy one. Sinethemba’s biological father was also living in the house and he was not happy about this decision. ‘My father made sure I paid for my presence. He would beat me up each day with a belt or a sjambok. I started wondering the streets and spending more time at school. This meant that when I arrived home around 18.30 my grandmother was back from work. I wanted to avoid to be alone with him.’
Sinethemba’s relief came each time his father was sentenced to prison. In his teen years, his father was in and out of prison for robbery and house break-ins.
The extra time Sinethemba spent at school made him a favorite and he was invited to be a newsletter writer in an exchange programme with an Irish school, ‘I had never used a computer and now I was having skype conversations with my peers in Ireland. I learnt so much and I was introduced to google. One day I wrote an email to a youth TV show. The email just said: I am 12 years old and I want to be a TV presenter.’
The following day, Sinethemba received an email inviting him to be the guest presenter for one day. ‘I can’t describe how I felt. I was a star for one day and when I went back to school I was famous. My aunty couldn’t believe she had lost the bet.’ This experience once again confirmed Sinethemba’s passion for media.
Sinethemba got motivated and started sending the same email to dozens of media contacts he found in google. A few days after he got another reply, this time it was an agent that offered to represent him. For the next two years, Sinethemba was invited to many auditions and he appeared in publicity campaigns of retail shops like Edgars, PEP and Ackermans.
Sinethemba is now in Matric and is working hard to further his education in media studies next year. When Sinethemba was asked his advice to others he said, ‘Be positive. My positive thinking has always pulled me forward. Believe in yourself and hold tight to your dearest dream.’
Sinethemba is a former Leaders’ Quest participant, an intervention offered by Salesian Life Choices.