Former gangster Sebastian Haricombe, along with his parents, is providing school shoes for impoverished pupils. Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency (ANA)

Cape Town - A former gangster from Manenberg, who dreamt of becoming the leader of one of Cape Town’s most notorious gangs, and who was almost killed four times, is giving back to his impoverished community by providing school shoes to children.

Today, Sebastian Haricombe is an inspiration to children who grow up in circumstances much like his.

Haricombe regularly goes to schools and talks to children about the dangers of gangsterism. “I tell them that gangsterism is not worth their lives because I almost lost mine on four occasions,” he said.

His experience began 22 years ago when his father Ralph went to prison. “It affected me heavily, and translated into me becoming rebellious and fighting at school.

"At the age of 10 years old I started my own gang. I was expelled from school at 12 years old. It became my dream to also go to prison like my dad.

"I wanted to become the leader of one of the most notorious gangs on the Cape Flats. So after I left school I became involved in a gang and used drugs. This is when I was almost killed. I was stabbed in my neck and back.”

In 2003 his father was released from prison. He was put out of the house along with his father because of their drug habits. It all changed when an elderly woman in Manenberg asked him to clean her garden.

“She called me into the house and asked me to attend a church service the coming Sunday. After that church service, I made a decision to change my life. I was 18 years old then and gave my heart to the Lord."

Haricombe recalls the day his father joined him for church as the best moment of his life.

Seven years ago he started the project Hope, through which he raises money to buy shoes for children. “I saw a lot of children wearing shoes which were broken or were too big,” Haricombe said.

This year he plans to donate 1000 pairs of shoes to 22 schools. The project has since provided more than 1 000 children with shoes.

“The shoe company Buccaneers will also be making a donation of shoes and give us a discount when we buy shoes.

"Today my dad and mom are involved in the project, and we volunteer to make a difference in poor communities,” he said.

People who want to make a donation can contact Haricombe on 063 776 4969.

Cape Argus