Considering himself lucky to give back

Lucky Sithole

Coming from a corporate background, Lucky Sithole, a marketing and communications enthusiast, never thought he would find himself working for a non-governmental organisation (NGO).

Yet, he always had the yearning to work in an environment where he could give back. At the height of his career, having worked for South African Tourism in London for five years and having recently moved to Cape Town CBD, Mr Sithole struggled to find his place in his career.

“I said to myself, ‘I’ve been afforded a great experience and I’ve earned a lot of knowledge. It’s obvious that the corporate environment would not be fitting anymore but an environment where I can share this experience by giving back,” he said.

In his search of a new career, his agent thought he would best be suited for a position at the Mowbray-based NGO, Nal’ibali.

Nal’ibali, started in 2012, is a national reading for enjoyment campaign, which aims to spark children’s potential through storytelling and reading. “This position basically just merged my interest – my love for education, love I have for South Africa and the future of our children,” Mr Sithole said.

”Children who are immersed in imaginative and well-told stories – in languages they understand – become inspired and motivated to read for themselves. Such personally rewarding learning is a recipe for successful literacy development encourages a culture of reading among children, and encourages caregivers to make reading part of everyday life.

“When we were young, all the reading we had to do was in school with the objective of being tested. So you were reading because it was something you needed to do. Nal’ibali is encouraging children to read as habit, for enjoyment, but also to acquire knowledge in the process. By creating a culture of reading in South Africa, they’re striving to open up a world of possibilities for everyone. And once reading becomes a habit, it wouldn’t seem a chore. Moreover, children will be prepared once they get to varsity or college because it’s a habit they’ve grown up with.”

Mr Sithole said one of the challenges of working within the NGO space is the limited budgets. However, it also encourages people to work harder. Nal’ibali’s anchor funder is the DG Murray Trust.

“I’ve been challenged in the way that I work with budgets because funding always needs to be stretched and channelled effectively. The NGO space is fuelled by passion and the drive to make a difference”

However, corporates and individuals alike are always willing to help and to donate. “It’s a great validation for our daily efforts. People recognise and appreciate the good work Nal’ibali does.”

Although Mr Sithole doesn’t work in the field, he often has the opportunity to visit communities in the city through the Literacy Mentors initiative which sees employees of Nal’ibali who go out to interact with people in various communities via libraries; schools; or already conducting literacy activities or book clubs. There are 15 of these mentors working nationally, five of them based in Cape Town. They also provide training and support to volunteers in communities who want to start their own book clubs as part of the FUNda Leaders campaign.

FUNda Leaders are adults who want to help children learn and become literate through fun interaction with stories. They are willing to be reading role models in their communities.

“As a FUNda leader you can also do your bit – start a reading club, or join an existing reading club, start a parent-and-tots group, share stories at a clinic, read to children regularly, fill hungry tummies and donate books or other reading material, just to mention a few. The whole revolution, it’s basically asking: ‘where can I plug in to the already existing programme?” said Mr Sithole.

Nal’ibali also has various events throughout the year such as, World Read Aloud Day, celebrations around World Book Day, and Story Bosso, a nationwide storytelling talent search, which takes place in September , which is Literacy and Heritage Month.

People of all ages are invited to take part in the drive by sending in a video or audio clip of themselves reading or telling a story. Entries can be submitted in any South African language, and can be original stories made up by the participants, retelling of stories heard before, a narrative poem, or simply an extract from their favourite book or sample story provided by Nal’ibali.

The winner will be crowned South Africa’s “Story Bosso” and will have the chance to have their story made into a book, among other prizes. Last year, seven-year old Athandiwe Sikade from Khayelitsha was crowned as the Story Bosso 2015 winner.

Mr Sithole described the little girl’s storytelling skills as captivating and amazing: “It’s things like this that make my job worthwhile. If you have a child, read to him or her for at least a couple of minutes a day. Or let them read the recipe while you are cooking. You are instilling a culture of reading in them. There is a huge amount of knowledge you are passing on to this child, and it’s just a couple of minutes of your time.”

Call 021 180 4080, visit www. nalibali.org, or email info@nalibali.org for more details.