Motivation Makes Great Impact
“By the time I was nine years old, I was all alone. Community members helped me and gave me food and clothes. This is how I came to have a heart to see what other children needed and were going through,” Elijah Molahlehi, Motivation Community Development Center. Motivation Community Development Center is a Firelight grantee partner in South Africa that promotes Khoi-San culture and operates a daycare center, community garden, soup kitchen, HIV-counseling center, and community talk show. The following story is from Elijah Molahlehi about MCD’s unique programs and his personal motivations as the leader of the organization.
"In our communities, we have a huge unemployment problem, which creates poverty and worsens the effect of HIV and AIDS. Crime is very high. If we could take children off the streets, train, and educate them; that would be a big achievement.
Part of our distinctive way of working is to affirm the Khoi-San culture because Khoi-San children are disproportionately vulnerable, stigmatized, and disconnected from larger society—especially girls. We try to make sure that children and youth are happy about who they are and how they feel about themselves, their culture, and their ethnicity.
MCD was founded by youth in the primarily Khoi-San township of Roodepan in response to high rates of drug use, crime, HIV infection, and unemployment. They organized to motivate children and youth to reclaim their identity, become educated, socially skilled, mature, productive, and responsible.
Over several years of this work, we have seen a very positive impact: the levels of stigma and marginalization in our communities have decreased. We are working hard and seeing a lot of progress in building communities in which youth are changing lives, becoming role models, and teaching younger children. The change I see in our communities and in our youth is what motivates and inspires me every day.
I started youth and children’s programs because I was aware that there were a lot of children going through what I had been through—even worse. I was moved by the way Khoi-San children and youth were isolated and depressed. It reminded me of my own past. I know how it feels and I used to break down a lot and have no one to run to, but things changed when I met the mentors who coached me from ages 15 to 22. I decided to be positive rather than negative.
I decided to smile, even though it was very painful sometimes. I chose love, not hatred or grief. This changed my life and is why I have devoted myself to helping children who are growing up as orphans. The love and the heart of the children—that is the main thing that inspires my work…and enables me to inspire others."
Motivation Community Development started their partnership with Firelight Foundation in 2004 and will graduate this year.