STREETS OF FEAR: Ten people were killed over the last three weeks during gang shootings in Hanover Park.Picture: Leon Knipe
My story is my own but the same as that of many other young people on the Cape Flats and elsewhere. I live in a war zone in Hanover Park in the territory of a certain gang.

I am 17, with big dreams like many teenagers. But my life has been turned upside down so many times I get lost.

In the violent community where I live, it is easy to get drugs and there is pressure to take drugs. My father is a drug addict and became aggressive towards my mother, as well as my other two siblings and myself.

My father has been in prison seven times because of abuse.

My mind was never on schoolwork because of confusing feelings I experienced as a result of my home problems. I remember at primary school, I slacked off because of emotional abuse and seeing the physical attacks on my mother.

I wanted to drop out of school many times because of the situation at my home.

LOOKING AHEAD: Rasheedah Smith has found new hope and purpose.

I was always upset and angry and could not understand why. I didn’t know how to feel love for another person because of the big emotions I had to deal with.

On the one hand, I love my father but on the other I fear him. I have two other siblings from my mother and about seven from my father.

My mother eventually lost her love for my father and he is not really in my life now.

Fathers are supposed to protect you. You must look up to your father, but for me and I am sure for thousands like me, it is difficult. Sometimes they would ask at school “what does your father do for a living?”

It’s hard to speak about him, so I withdraw from conversations. Despite all the pressures to drop out, I passed to Grade 11.

Then something big happened on January 25 this year.

I attended the Peace Ambassadors programme. It immediately had a huge impact. No one knew my story but I was listening to Professor Brian Williams talk about peace and harmony.

It inspired me, especially the part about inner peace and how you must take responsibility to make your own peace.

The professor encouraged us to find words linked to peace. It hit me that words such as “respect” and “love” are like family members to peace.

Love is peace and peace is love. I never knew how important the word “peace” was until I took part in the programme. Suddenly I saw things differently and understood that to love, I had to have peace.

We were encouraged to design our own definitions and meaning of peace. We had to identify what we thought peace and development were, and make small plans to do something good and kind for someone else and for ourselves.

We had to be kind to ourselves? I did not know that that was something one must do. But it excited me that you must do something nice for yourself.

We had to share the message of peace with others and I organised friends to help spread peace messages to 500 others.

It became such an enjoyable thing to do. People were surprised when we invited them to come and listen to peace messages. We got young boys and girls from the schools to come and listen to us. We had soccer tournaments and gave them some chips and biscuits. The children were playing with such joy in their hearts. It was so nice to see this. The community needs peace. Not just in Hanover Park but in the Western Cape and South Africa. Everyone deserves and needs peace in their lives.

This peace programme is for anyone, whether you have troubles in your house or if you find it hard to love. My own life changed as Professor Williams encouraged me to focus on my future and not to let my past decide who I am. It will not be easy, but I am going to try every day. I am now a committed Peace Ambassador for life.

* Rasheedah Smith is a Grade 11 Mount-view High School pupil

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers

Cape Argus