Lubabalo Ngcolombo was a regular learner attending school in a semi-rural town in the Eastern Cape, where he lived with his parents and siblings. He was a quiet, shy and academically strong learner, but was a victim of bullying.
“I had low self-esteem because of the bullying and couldn’t speak in public, but I discovered that I could write,” he says. “I couldn’t sing, act or dance so I started writing plays, short stories, poetry and music, and I started a drama club.”
His life took a dramatic turn at the age of 15 when he started feeling sick and experiencing visions.
“I became ill, started having headaches and started losing my memory, but what I could do was predict events at school before they took place. One day I just lost my mobility and couldn’t move at all. My parents called a traditional healer to assist me and it was determined that I had an ancestral calling,” he says.
But becoming a sangoma had consequences and he had to quit school.
A passion for youth work
It was in his time away from school that he started doing volunteer work and he joined Love Love, an HIV prevention NPO with a focus on youth, where he was part of a peer-to-peer programme promoting behavioral change through the creative arts.
In 2004 he worked as a volunteer for an organisation called Hope World Wide which helped at-risk children in his community. His passion for youth work grew and he joined another organisation called Doxa Youth Programs which tackles drug abuse and teenage pregnancy.
The programme trains young people in art, poetry and music, and they also do voice-overs and participate in radio shows. Over the years Doxa has grown to become a fatherhood and family preservation programme which not only helps youth but also provides support to their parents to address all the challenges faced in the home.
At a crossroads
Once again, being a sangoma would threaten his achievements and he would have to choose which path he wanted to follow.
“We were inspiring a lot of young people and seeing positive change in their lives. There were practices that sangomas were expected to take part in that were threatening the well-being of the community and this was not the direction I wanted to take in life,” he says.
After a profound encounter with God and with the support of his wife, who is a pastor, he decided to abdicate his duties as a sangoma, which proved to be the right decision for him. They founded the organisation Jesus Culture Disciple Movement, which executes youth programmes in local churches and they also assist in planting new churches. Lubabalo is currently completing his diploma in theology and his work at Doxa, where he is now a director, has developed tremendously.
Doxa prides itself on being the foundation for many who have pursued careers in the creative arts.
“Many young people grow up in circumstances that made them believe they were destined to fail, but today we have many success stories and these young people are inspiring others and have shown gratitude for the way we have changed their lives,” Lubabalo says.
Partnering with Heartlines
In 2009 he was introduced to Heartlines and was trained in the Values & Money programme. Today, he works as a regional rep, facilitating Heartlines programmes in his community.
Doxa already has an established initiative addressing father absence in the community of Alexandria and the Heartlines Fathers Matter project has proven to be a great extension to the work it does.
“For many families in rural Eastern Cape, fathers work in the city and leave children behind to be raised in their absence – this has led to alcohol and drug abuse in children from as young as 12 and has put a heavy burden on mothers,” he says.
“The presence of a male figure in a child’s life is proven to be important, thus far fathers in our communities are seen as ATMs where their only contribution in children’s lives is to provide financially. I look forward to seeing stronger networks being formed and relationships built with Heartlines because these programmes are in demand. I want to see positive change in young people’s lives and to see them feel accepted, and this starts with building responsible communities.”
"In every boy and girl child that grows up without a father there is a hole in their soul that has the shape of their father," he adds.