Changing lives in the township of Alex

He grew up in the township of Alexandra in Johannesburg in the 1980s when South Africa was experiencing civil unrest at the height of apartheid. But this didn’t deter Jeff Riyandane from achieving academically and carving out a future for himself and his family.

“At the time Alex was experiencing violence, it was often difficult to go out into the streets because roads would be blocked by burning tires,” he says. “We are five siblings and the older kids were active in the youth struggle. At times they run home when the police arrived on the scene, my mother would help them hide under the bed.”

Jeff didn't get directly involved himself, because he was too young.

"One of my sisters was preparing wood for the coal stove when a police van made a u-turn in our yard. I thought they were coming for me, so I ran inside and locked the door, leaving my poor sister behind,” he says with a slight giggle.

Growing up in Alex had its challenges and Jeff would often travel to visit extended family members in Mpumalanga to escape the violence because schools would be closed for weeks, even months.

Love of music

“I was a shy and quiet child in school so I never got up to mischief. I just sat at the back of the class quietly and didn’t really have great ambitions. One of the things I wanted to do was sound engineering because I loved music,” he says. “I was also a church goer so I started attending Youth For Christ where we shared the gospel through acting and dancing. We travelled to the UK and the USA, when I returned I pursued sound engineering.”

Jeff humbly admits to working as a sound technician for large events which hosted famous local and international artists such as Hugh Masekela, Oliver Mtukudzi, Alicia Keys, Sean Paul and Pharrell Williams. 

“It was a dream come true but then I realised it wasn’t what I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” he says. 

Having been active in Christian youth work, Jeff realised that his calling was mainly in motivating and developing people. He went to Bible School and was ordained as a pastor and worked in ministry till 2012, while also working as a financial advisor for Liberty Life Insurance. 

Jeff got involved with Scripture Union in Alex and runs the Ikemeleng Youth Centre. He is also acting Regional Director for Scripture Unioin (SU) Gauteng South. Jeff got involved with SU in Alex and runs the Ikemeleng Youth Centre.

Heartlines journey

In 2018, Jeff was introduced to Heartlines programs and he knew it was the kind of work he wanted to get involved in. His experience as a financial advisor piqued his interest in our Values & Money programme, while the What’s Your Story? Campaign provided an excellent opportunity to bring about change and healing in his community. 

He is also excited to add the Father’s Matter programme to his work because the subject of absent fathers is one he personally understands. 

“My father died when I was three years old and we were raised by a single mother who had to work as a vendor, selling vegetables on the side of the road just to help us get by,” he says. 

“My father's death impacted me as a teenager because I always longed to chat to him about my challenges, puberty and how to be a man. I decided that when I become a father I would do my best to be present for my children.” 

Today, Jeff is a husband and father to three children. He values the bond he has with his two daughters Karabo (4) and Tinswalo (7) and his 19-month-old son. 

“Sundays are our bonding days, we go out for ice-cream and chat. My son also likes to be on the road with dad, so when I pick up my keys and grab my jacket, he runs to the door because he wants to come with.” 

Jeff says working with Heartlines has helped grow his drive to motivate and change people’s lives and looks forward to reaching more people in his community through all the Heartlines programmes. 

“What’s Your Story? has helped me extend my reach in churches and the Fathers Matter message will revolutionise our community. Father absence is at the root of the challenges we see in Alex today. What was once violence caused by the apartheid regime has now turned to violence as a result of crime,” he says. 

“I look forward to the day when someone approaches me in the future and says their life has changed because of the work that we do. That would be my greatest reward.”