Pelisa Matshanga is our next inspiring FUNda Leader. She comes from the Eastern Cape but now lives in the Mfuleni township, near Cape Town. Pelisa has worked as a police reservist, a volunteer at the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), and an assistant research counsellor at the Desmond Tutu Centre. She has a certificate in Project Management from Cape Peninsuala University of Technology.
For Pelisa, stories were the basis for her love of reading, which later fuelled her ambitions. “We grew up with my mom, but often visited my grandma, with my siblings and cousins. The one thing I loved about those visits was storytelling time (Iintsomi). I remember the feeling of excitement - hearing my grandma’s slow, rusty voice was priceless. By the time grandma finished the story, everyone would be asleep but I would still be awake pondering the story’s lesson, because Makhe (as we called her) would always say there is a lesson in every story - we just needed to find it."
Based on her beautiful storytelling experience with her grandmother, Pelisa decided to pass the gift onto her own children, and other kids in the community. “My ten year old daughter has watched me reading over the years. I found her frequently trying to read my books, but they were difficult for her because of the advanced English. So I would read them to her, and because she’s such a curious child, she eventually wanted her own books with pictures! Every time we visited the library she would bring her friends along to take books on her library card. I saw that these children were hungry for books and stories! That’s why I decided to open up Khanyisa Reading Club for the community children, where they can listen to stories and read books every weekend.”
Pelisa’s spirit of activism, and her desire to enrich these children’s lives, is what drives her FUNda Leader activities. She told Nal’ibali that she became inspired to become a FUNDA leader because she would “like a generation of critical thinkers in the future.”
Every Saturday and Sunday, for two hours, she opens her home for children in the community to enjoy reading and stories with no pressure or expectation – simply for the joy of it. Says Pelisa: “I enjoy reading to them and I love to see the wonder on their faces and hear the sound of their giggles!”
On top of that, Pelisa has written her own story called ‘Usiqwentshu noZukile’ - which she also reads to the children. For Nal’ibali and her community members, Pelisa is a beacon of hope and inspiration. Her conviction and compassion is changing children’s lives.
In order to get her project going, Pelisa has managed to round up her own resources. Since she has no books of her own, she has been collecting Nal’ibali newspaper supplements from the library, and also uses the rhymes and online stories. Pelisa ends with a powerful message to all adults in South Africa. “There is a lot to be done in the world. If we, as adults, can lend our hands, we can change a child’s life. One day, that child will say “I am where I am today because of so and so”. And that person could be you. So my message to all future FUNda Leaders is that you will truly make a difference, no matter how small you think your efforts are. Each of these activities will help change South Africa’s future.”