Asanda in business of reigniting dreams of children in desperate circumstances

Asanda Noruka founder of Nthinga Nathi

Neziswa Kanju sheds light on “Ntinga Nathi”, a faith-filled youth development ministry birthed in Mdantsane, where many dreams have been crushed under the weight of poverty and social evils

Ntinga Ntaka Ndini!!!! A popular phrase among amaXhosa, literally means “fly high bird”. It is often said when congratulating someone who has achieved a great goal — to rejoice with them while motivating them to aim higher in their endeavours.

Asanda Noruka named her youth development organisation Ntinga Nathi. meaning “fly with us”. The ministry is based in NU1 in Mdantsane township near East London. Mdantsane is South Africa’s second-biggest township after Soweto. but is in more neglected than the likes of Soweto or Kayelitsha in Cape Town. Challenges include Inadequate infrastucture development and service delivery, high levels of unemployment, crime. poverty, alcohol abuse, as well as unhygienic living environments and toxic family structures. 

East London, a 35 minutes drive away from Mdantsane, has been in the news recently following the deaths of 21 youths at a shebeen. These two Eastern Cape urban areas have a shared reality of unemployed youths who are involved in activities that can be life threatening. After the shebeen tragedy parents of the victims were judged harshly and accused of contributing to their deaths. The shebeen owner was also accused of being negligent as one of the deceased was a 13-year-old child. Who was to blame?

Whose fault was it that children as young as 12 were at a shebeen and did not sleep at home? Children have died and more continue to live in grim conditions that drive them to drink alcohol, take drugs and even slit their wrists. Who is responsible for this despair? Is it the government? Is it the parents? Who is responsible for providing solutions? These questions form part of an ongoing debate across SA about how to build the nation and give hope to our people at a time when we seem to be spiralling downward.

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Asanda and the Ntinga Nathi youth

 Asanda took it upon herself to provide a space where young people can find refuge from their daily challenges. She says she didn’t want to be somebody who complains about young people being unruly.

“What motivated me to start Ntinga Nathi was seeing children in my community going through a lot, and there was no one to listen to them. And I remember there was an incident of a child who stabbed another child in my community. She was 16 then and I realised there was no child who can be so angry that they stab other children without a reason.

“So, I had to dig deeper and go to that family and find out what was happening with the child. And I got to understand that the child was abused and nobody knew about it. She had no one to share what she was going through at that time.

“God spoke to me that there are many children who are going through the same thing. They have no one to talk to. There is no one to guide them to go to the right direction.

“I stay in Mdantsane. Issues of alcohol, drug abuse, crime, child neglect — those are the things that pushed me into opening this organisation and to bring in kids week after week to motivate them, teach them the Word of God, pray with them, refer them to counsellors and doctors. If they need toiletries to organise toiletries,” said Asanda.

She has experienced tragedy in her own life, which makes her empathetic and compassionate regarding the plight of vulnerable young children. Her father passed away when she was young and they lost their home as a result. It was during these days when her faith was tested that she decided to trust God despite the challenges.

Asanda’s faith in God saw her start Ntinga Nathi seven years ago, without any financial support from government or a corporate sponsor. Her friends and family have helped with the growth of the ministry as she has reached out to them at various times for assistance. She has organised stationery, school uniforms; toiletries, clothes and even Bibles for the children she serves — most of whom are from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Talking about her passion for youth development, she said: “The thing that makes me to be compassionate to young children is that I got  born again as a young person and there were people that were there for me. who were showing me the right way — who were speaking life over my life .

“And because of that I believe that the seed was planted in me and it shaped me to be who I am today. So, why not do it to other children? Why not help somebody else find their full potential?”

Through the guidance she received from those who discipled her after she was born again at the age of 18, Asanda was able to recognise the gift of worship on her life. She serves as a praise and worship leader at her church and leads worship seminars at other churches.

Her focus on helping others find their potential is seen in Ntinga Nathi’s guiding vision; “Reigniting Dreams”. This motto guides all the activities at Ntinga Nathi from their skills transfer programmes to motivational talks, to career day events and their art; dance and drama activities. Asanda wants young people to be exposed to possibilities. Her dream for the young people at Ntinga Nathi is that they live their God-given purpose. She is well aware that the seeds of greatness that are sown now may only yield a harvest many years later.

At a recent career expo event where children had to come dressed in the costume of their dream professions, many came dressed as doctors; singers and business people. Asanda said: “When you are working with young people you must understand that in some you will see the difference within a minute and you will see that what you are doing to them is making a huge impact. And some you might not see it now — it might take place 10 or 20 years. You must keep on planting a seed and that seed will eventually bloom. It will eventually grow. 

Asanda has a Masters in Rural Development from the University of Fort Hare. Her thesis was on youth development. While she has never been married and has no children of her own, God has given her many children to look after. Currently she is mentoring and imparting life skills to a group of 28 young people — mainly girls — aged from 13 to 22.

Ntinga Ntahi currently needs counsellors and arts facilitators to provide dance, art and drama classes.

Asanda said: “Those who want to volunteer and offer their expertise are welcomed. We recently started aftercare where kids come and we teach them. We help them with their homework and we prepare them for exams. Those who are good in mathematics and accounting, please come help, and those who are professional social workers and counsellors, come help counsel the children and help motivate them.

“I have realised that some love acting and dancing, so we need professional people that will come and just help them polish their skills. Those who say I want to come and make soup, bread and prepare something to eat for children are welcome to be part of the programme.”

One of the big challenges she faces is a lack of resources to properly take care of all the youngsters. “I am unemployed, so I get resources from individuals who donate essentials that are needed by the children. I wish I could help them all because they all have different struggles in their lives — as some tell me they do not have food at their homes. They are coming from very poor backgrounds. They don’t have shoes for school, bags or for school, stationery. I rely on donations from people in changing the lives of these children. I would like to see them reaching their goals as whole people — healed. People who are able to dream.” 

Ntinga Nathi’s latest campaign is a toiletry drive. They are calling for donations for toothbrushes; toothpaste, soap, body lotion and menstrual pads. People are called to help where they can.

Asanda believes that what you do for yourself will leave with you when you leave this world. But what you do for others — and what you do to others — will remain from generation to generation. Help to reignite dreams and help the youth at Ntinga Nathi to fly higher.

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