GroundUp (Cape Town)

20 February 2013

South Africa: Ex-Gang Member Turns Life Around

Suzanne, 25 years old of Kalksteen, is an ex-gang member and drug addict who is now inspiring young women in her community.

Suzanne started using drugs (Tik) when she was 18 years old. She was introduced to drugs by her boyfriend.

Suzanne explains her story:

He was my first love. We started doing drugs together. Then we started selling them to get an income to buy more. At times we would break into homes just to get drugs. Once you do drugs you are willing to do anything. The American gang in the area wasn't happy with the fact we were selling drugs and that lead to a gang turf war. My boyfriend was told he had to join the Americans to stop the turf war, which he did. Many times I feared for my life but once I got high it was all gone. I witnessed many murder scenes. At the age of 19 year I became pregnant with my first-born. My parents took care of him while I was out on the streets. Three years later my second son was born.

I was locked up once because the police couldn't get hold of my boyfriend. I was held for the case until they arrested him. I sat in the cell thinking about my life and kids.

Suzanne was convinced by her mother to join a church, which she credits with having turned her life around. She also signed up for a social media training course. She began volunteering for the training academy and now she is a facilitator there in a class just for mothers. Last year she completed her matric. She says:

I always dreamt of having a Matric Ball, especially seeing young girls on their night as I dropped out of school in grade 10. I have achieved so many things thus far and it's unbelievable when I think about it. Every day something new is taking place in my life.

She plans to start a new business in October. Suzanne says:

To all those wanting to get off drugs is it's not easy, but it's your choice. There is help. I have a blog where young people can reach out for help. Today I'm successful and want to help others as well.

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