Sometimes, through tragic or difficult circumstances, children become responsible for taking care of their siblings or parents. These circumstances change some for life, be it negative or positive. This is the story of the mental toll becoming a teenage parent had on Yolanda Mbolompo and how she not only survived but thrived, and became the founder of the Groom a Village Child Foundation.
At the tender age of six, Mbolompo from Mtyamde in Cofimvaba, Eastern Cape, experienced the loss of her mother. Mbolompo’s older brother, Mandisi, was eight years old, and their younger brother, Masixole, was just over a year old.
She tells Health For Mzansi that her mother had Mandisi when she was just sixteen, then Yolanda a little over a year later. Her children had different biological fathers, with whom they lacked any personal familiarity or bond. However, Yolanda was able to successfully trace her paternal lineage.
At the age of six, she was taken by her maternal cousin to Cape Town. Since her earliest memories, Mbolompo has been repeatedly transferred to various family members and returned to the Eastern Cape.
On a quest to locate her father
When she was 12 years old, she resided with a different family member in the Eastern Cape. However, she says all she wanted was her father’s family.
She recalls walking a considerable distance from the Ngudle location to her uncle’s home in the Ngonyama location. She informed him that she intended to search for her father.
“We were able to successfully locate my father’s family. At the time, my father was sick and unfortunately, he passed away a year later.”
She completed high school, back with her aunt in Cape Town, before moving to Gauteng at the age of 18.
The unbearable pain
Her older brother was living with other relatives, and his little brother had been placed with a different family. Unfortunately, her older brother was murdered by a village mob justice at the age of 16 over a sheep theft.
This prompted her to look for her younger brother, Masixole, who now had no one after his guardian died. “I was told he wasn’t speaking to anyone. He didn’t want to go to school, so I brought him in. I was working at a little restaurant and wasn’t doing well financially,” she explains.
This did not deter her from taking him in. She was 18 at that stage and a mother of a month-old girl, Asa.
Mbolompo tells Health for Mzansi that she was despondent and had an emotional breakdown when all that happened.
So much was going wrong that he began drinking alcohol when he was a teenager.
“I had to be tough with my children. I’m not sure how I accomplished it. However, I always share love and care first and foremost. I believe it worked at some point.”
Unity is key
Mbolompo states she had a difficult upbringing. When Masixole had to go to initiation school, the situation deteriorated further. Financially, things were better since she started working at a mine.
“I did everything alone financially; I had to save, and there were additional expenses.”
Without moral support, she felt like she was suffocating throughout the entire process.
Mbolompo took action and sat down with her brother. She says she told him that their life story and background do not bode well, but that they have the ability to make their future significantly better than their past and present circumstances.
Masixole enrolled at Johannesburg Central College to study marketing, after taking off a gap year. She says that he grew mentally and showed signs of being a responsible adult.
Creating a better life
Mbolompo always wanted a better life than the one she had growing up and she works hard to accomplish it.
She founded her hair brand Afro-bae in 2019. She is also currently engaged in estate enterprises, farming with both grain crops and livestock, and she has also established the Groom a Village Child Foundation where she helps other children in need.
Mbolompo says people function better in environments where they are valued.
“Love reassures, encourages, applauds, gives chances, holds your hand and because of that love we become confident, self-aware and we always want to do better.”
She adds that caring and sharing is in her veins and that she is also currently in the process of fostering a child. Mbolompo attributes her ability to heal to the lessons she learned from life to having an open heart.
Get the Health For Mzansi newsletter: Your bi-weekly dose of kasi health, wellness and self-care inspiration.