Former drug smuggler changing lives of thousands at community centre
News / 16 September 2019, 2:30pm / James Mahlokwane
Pretoria - Ga-Rankuwa-based community centre Aga Sechaba Community Centre continues to thrive and impact positively on the lives of young people struggling with addiction.
The centre decided to not to call its patients drug addicts, instead using the term 'service users'. Today, it is proud to have turned around the lives of young people who have lost hope and and were abandoned by their families.
The community centre continues to reach out to around 5 000 young people monthly.
The centre received recognition from the City of Tshwane and other donors who helped the centre upgrade its facilities.
The centre has a team of 23 qualified staff that consist of psychologists, social workers, arts performers and IT networks training administrators.
It was founded in 2010 by former drug smuggler Lehlogonolo Letsoalo, who spent time in London after being busted with bags of dagga. He wanted to discourage young people who were praising him for serving time in prison overseas, as they thought he was a hero.
He started the centre in a small location in Atteridgeville without any funding or support but kept going as he was fuelled by passion. To date, even when he doesn't receive funds, he doesn't feel like its time to give up because he learned to do the work without money.
He said he was proud that today the centre has a skills development centre where young people who struggled with addiction are trained and taught to be employable. Many young people from the community are finding employment by submitting their resumes to the centre.
"We also have a jobs centre, that's where companies on our database tell us when they have vacancies and we take the resumes of young people in the community and submit them.
"We screen these CVs first and look to find who is likely to be skilled for the job advertise. We then conduct assessments and organise an online interview for the candidates. That's where we make sure that when they leave this place, they are ready to start working.
"This is great because this is not an affluent community. A lot of our young people can't afford the means to seek employment. You can imagine how difficult it must be to try and find work when you don't have money for the interview or to travel to work."
The centre registers numerous young people who want to quit using drugs and put them on a programme that prepare them to be sent to rehab. This six-week programme ensure that they do not drop out of rehab and leave wasted the investments made to rehab centre who could have instead admitted someone else.
"Every Wednesdays and Thursdays, service users come to the shelter we make them food, give them sanitary packs and make them watch movies in one of our rooms. We are still refurbishing the place so eventually they'll take a shower here. We want them to get clean and feel that they have their dignity back when people look at them differently."
The centre moved to Ga-Rankuwa in 2015 but in 2017 it moved to a bigger premises that used to be a residential area for Tshwane University of Technology students.
Letsoalo wants to utilise all the building blocks in his life time as he has a dream to ensure that young people have everything they need to improve their lives irrespective of their backgrounds or where they were born.
He plans to partner with a willing company to start a creche focused on giving children early childhood development education fit for the approaching fourth industrial revolution.