Originally published 25 July 2012
It was just another night at the Silver Spear Spur at uShaka Marine World in Durban. An average spread of that moneyed South African demographic were sitting around the tables, chatting, drinking their drinks, eating and lazily eyeing the steady stream of steaks and burgers flowing out the kitchen. Just an average Monday night at the Spur. But for the 9 kids in the two booths near the front, there was nothing average about this meal.
You see this was probably the first time that any of these kids had ever been invited to a restaurant. And certainly the first time they’d been told they could order whatever they like from the menu. Yip, that’s how we like to roll at Mahala. Thanks to a generous hook up from the good people at Spur, we got to take a group of former street kids from the Umthombo project, for eat-as-much-as-you-can steak, burgers and ice-cream to congratulate them for making the break and getting off the streets permanently.
If you don’t already know, Umthombo is an organisation that rehabilitates Durban’s street kids by engaging them in activities like surfing, art, culture and music and creating a safe space for them to work it all out.
“Basically we wanted to treat these kids who have demonstrated through their behaviour that they’re committed to changing their lives.” Says Umthombo founder Tom Hewitt, who was recently given an MBE by the Queen of England for his work in reintegrating Durban’s street kids back into functional members of the society. “They’ve all made the commitment to get off the streets permanently.” He adds. Umthombo operates on a voluntary basis. They can’t force the process, “we can only help them on the journey.” Says Tom. “They’re ultimately in control of their decisions. These kids, here tonight, have made an absolute commitment to change and they’ve backed it up consistently with their actions. And we wanted to celebrate that.”
*Kudos to Umthombo for the good work they’re doing. Big thanks to Spur for their generosity. And big ups to Tyrone Bradley for the pics and Josh Reynolds for all the backstage graft.
**All images © Tyrone Bradley.