A man from Somerset West, who was severely injured after a bakkie rode over him, is inspiring those around him with his story of turning hardship into hope.
Thirty-six-year-old Leeroy Juries says that despite the many difficulties he has faced, he can turn his life around for the better.
“I can still have something in my life. There is still a life for me, forward. I’m so grateful to the Lord, and people mustn't give up in times when they see there’s no hope. There is hope,” he said.
Juries grew up in a poor family in Macassar in the Western Cape. When he was 16, he and his five siblings lost their mother. Not long afterwards, he decided to live on the streets of Somerset West.
In 2008, after Juries had served four years in prison for housebreaking, he was back on the streets but was able to make some money at the taxi rank and by washing cars.
Just a year after his release, Leeroy survived a traumatic experience that changed his life.
“I was laying at the park. This bakkie drove over me in my sleep. By the time I woke up, I was under the bakkie, and the wheels were going over me. That’s why my lower back is still broken. I was screaming,” he said.
The driver, who drove through Reitz Park in Somerset West, said he didn’t see Juries and thought he drove over some rubble.
“When we went to the hospital, they said nothing was broken, and they gave me two crutches. After a few days, I was better, and they said it was a miracle I was still alive,” said Juries.
Despite being ridden over by a vehicle, Juries was able to continue with his life, not knowing the long-term damage the accident would cause to his body.
In 2015, six years after the incident, his injuries caught up with him, and his body started showing signs of paralysis.
“One morning, I woke up, and I saw that one side of my body was limping, and everything didn’t want to work properly. In 2018, I was flat.”
The accident left Juries paralysed in his legs, and he is also experiencing stiffness in his right arm.
At the start of the Covid-19 lockdown in March 2020, he was sent to the Somerset West Family Night Shelter, where he now resides.
Jo Swart, the chairperson of the Somerset West Family Night Shelter, says she has known Juries for over ten years and is inspired by his tenacious spirit.
“I think this is a hundred percent victory story because I think people like Leeroy who are vulnerable, homeless, and locked into addiction, they get trapped and become forgotten.
“But there can be an incredible turnaround, and I feel like when I look at him, there is life in him and so much joy. There is so much purpose now that he has,” she said.
Juries said he is grateful to the shelter for caring for him. He is actively trying to access physical therapy and hopes one day that he will be able to walk and work again.