What gift did Cape Town’s LEIGH-ANNE NATHAN offer to an eight-year-old LUFEFE KWETSHUBE that he’s now passing on to the next generation? ALI MCALPIN discovered an inspiring cycle

Lufefe Kwetshube (18) was born in Cape Town. His mother died when he was young and he and his brother were raised by their grandmother, a domestic worker. He attended Observatory Primary School and completed his education in the Eastern Cape. He’s currently studying event management at Cape Town’s Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT)

‘I met Leigh-Anne when I was eight and started the Shine Literacy reading programme. Shine was a wonderful escape from the noisy classroom which made us feel special. I was very shy at first but Leigh-Anne was a mother figure to me. She was kind and loving, and made me happy. She was also a friend.

I remember so clearly her giving me books to take home and keep, it was so significant to me to have my own books. She also gave me CDs and I particularly remember The Lion King.

Lufefe still remembers this outing with Leigh-Anne and fellow Shine Literacy student Zahra to see the penguins at Cape Town’s Boulders Beach

Leigh-Anne took Zahra, my reading partner, and me on outings to Boulders Beach to see the penguins, then on a camel ride. At the end of the day, we ate ice cream. We also went to see the lighthouse in Mouille Point and a reptile park. It was so exciting, a wonderful adventure, and I realised there was a whole other world out there.

My grandmother took us to the Eastern Cape for our high school years but when I returned to Cape Town I contacted Shine to get hold of Leigh-Anne. We met at a coffee shop in Observatory and I recognised her straight away. I was so happy to see her because she’s a godsend to me. She suggested I consider teaching at Shine, so I’m now volunteering at Zonnebloem School. The boys love having a male teacher and helping them makes me happy.

Shine, the organisation that encouraged an eight-year-old Lufefe with his reading, is where he himself now helps others blossom. ‘I really like to see people happy,’ says Lufefe  |  Photo: Nicky Elliott

I can still remember how I felt at that age, so I’m patient, wait for the children to calm down if they’re hyperactive, and listen to them. I encourage my friends to volunteer as well. Sometimes my university timetable clashes with Shine but then other volunteers step in.

I really like to see people happy, it gives me joy and doing this kind of work keeps me away from bad choices. When I travel to CPUT each day and I see street people who have no homes and no opportunities I feel sad and really grateful that I’m not in that position. It also makes me more determined to succeed.

A Shine Literacy certificate ceremony uniting pupils and volunteers  |  Photo: Nicky Elliott

My older brother Ntobeko has been a parent figure to me, always telling me, ‘I’m only a phone call away. I’m your father and your mother’. My grandmother has been like a mother to me, she still calls me and tells me to study hard and work hard! She taught me to put God first in my life. This helps me make the right choices so I don’t get into trouble!

My dreams for the future include travel (anywhere and everywhere) and I’d like to own a car one day. I’m enjoying my event management studies and think this career will suit me as it’s sociable and fun.

Shine and Leigh-Anne changed my life, and made me want to study hard. I don’t think I’d be where I am now without them.’

Shine pupils celebrate their achievements  |  Photo: Nicky Elliott

Leigh-Anne Nathan was born in KwaZulu-Natal, attended Durban Girls’ College, studied secretarial practice at Durban Technicon, and worked in the travel field for 30-plus years. She’s married to Rob and they have two adult sons

‘When I first met Lufefe, he was small for his age, incredibly shy and very softly spoken, which made it hard to assess his level of reading and his grasp of English.

If I asked him a question, he mostly used body language to reply or at most, a quiet whisper. I encouraged him to project his voice by asking him to pretend I was blind. I would close my eyes and gradually he would speak a little louder, read a few words, and finally make eye contact.

We met twice a week and I discovered he was a bright student with a good grasp of English: he just hadn’t been heard by anyone. With encouragement, praise and the use of the Shine Literacy reading material and games he started to gain confidence and I knew we’d finally formed a bond when he arrived for our session with plastic ‘Dracula’ teeth to give me a fright!

Leigh-Anne and Lufefe at the Shine centre where both now volunteer. ‘I’m so grateful we were brought together all those years ago,’ she says  |  Photo: Nicky Elliott

Lufefe thrived on individual attention. The following year, he was made class captain with his newfound confidence and ability, and I worked with him for another six months until he had outgrown the programme.

When his grandmother moved the boys to the Eastern Cape, we unfortunately lost touch. But I was overjoyed last year when he made contact via Shine to say he was back in Cape Town, had passed his Matric and was now studying event management at CPUT. Our breakfast reunion was wonderful and got even better when Lufefe said he was keen to volunteer at Shine. What a special cycle of life that so many children who were encouraged by Shine now love books and say they want to read to their own children.

Sally Wells, manager of Shine Literacy’s Zonnebloem centre, engages with a Shine pupil (name withheld in accordance with Shine’s child protection policy)  |  Photo: Nicky Elliott

I first discovered Shine in 2005 after reading an article in the local neighbourhood Tatler newspaper, and it really inspired me. It operates with volunteers who have a love of reading and children. No previous teaching experience is necessary, you just need to attend Shine’s training course.

I’ve now worked at Shine for around 11 years, supporting about 20 children over this period and can honestly say that nothing feeds my soul or holds my attention more than this weekly time. Actually, I feel that everyone at Shine is doing God’s work, and I encourage anyone who can spare an hour a week to sign up with them.

Lufefe rejoices in the progress of his pupils. ‘I don’t think I’d be where I am now without Shine,’ he says  |  Photo: Nicky Elliott

Being a person who has faith in abundance and trust in God’s plan for my life, I’m so grateful that Lufefe and I were brought together all those years ago and that we can continue to keep in touch and working at Shine. I salute Shine for creating space to hear a child in so many ways.’

Leigh-Anne encourages all who can to sign up as a volunteer to encourage young readers. ‘Nothing feeds my soul or holds my attention more than this weekly time,’ she says  |  Photo: Nicky Elliott
Shine is a national South African organisation that’s always in need of volunteers of all ages! To find out more about Shine or about becoming a volunteer, visit www.shineliteracy.org.za or contact Pumza on info@shineliteracy.org.za and 021 762 4320

WATCH THIS VIDEO to get inspired about Shine’s work… and to see Lufefe as a young boy!

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