With little hope for the future, desperate youth in South Africa are turning to gangs. Troubled kids, some as young as 12 or 13, are lured into gangs on the promise of riches beyond their wildest dreams. Flashy cars, cool clothes, constant companions…when you have nothing, it’s hard to resist.
The gangsters they idolize seem to live a glamorous life with few, if any consequences, for the terror they spread. The reality is far from glamorous. The kids are soon mired in a world of crime, drugs, and violence from which it is difficult, if not impossible, to escape.
South Africa has a history of violence and a firmly established gun culture. Combined with lack of jobs and poor quality of life for black youth, it is easy to see how gang mentality can take hold.
What children witness during their formative years becomes deeply engrained in their psyche, making theft and violence seem “normal.” In the hierarchy of gangs, respect and power are earned through violence and fearlessness. Murder becomes just another means to an end. There is no value to human life.
Orphaned children who have no one to care for them are particularly vulnerable to the gangs. A child knows what he or she lives. With no one to guide the way, children turn to gangs in a misguided attempt to belong and to feel secure. The security they seek is only an illusion.
The gang problem in South Africa didn’t happen overnight, and it will take a lot to turn things around. Certainly, law enforcement must take a more active role. Perhaps even more importantly, children need love and guidance from their parents, extended families, and communities.
When you sponsor a child, you help to support and nurture a child and contribute to a more secure environment. Safe access to schools, after school clubs, and organized sports are all helpful in keeping kids focused on activities that matter.
Children must have hope for a future in which they can realistically pursue their dreams, establish careers, and raise a family. Life should be cherished, and so should these children. After all, the gang problem is not of their own making.
It is up to us to give them something to live for. When we give them that, gang life will be much less appealing. Life has to mean something.