A NELSON Mandela Bay student has managed to overcome adversity after he and his brother were left orphaned following the death of their father.
Having had to move to the MTR Smit Children’s Haven after he was orphaned, Koko July now boasts the title of national youth ambassador to parliament and rubs shoulders with South Africa’s politicians on a regular basis.
There is one youth adviser for every province, but July heads the group.
"When my father passed away in 2004 from a heart attack, that just broke the family. He supported the entire household and truly was the head of the household. After the funeral, everything just went down from there.
"My mother could not support us because she did not handle his death very well. My dad was everything to me and I really don’t think I would be where I am now without his support,” he said.
After his father’s death, July, 22, and his brother, Pooe, 17, were left to fend for themselves after struggling family members could not afford to take care of them.
"We were moved from house to house and from family member to family member. We even lived with friends for a while. I was 15 at the time and my brother was about eight or nine.
"My aunt was introduced to MTR Smit by a friend of hers and we then came to live here but now my brother is living in Alice with my aunt.”
After moving to the haven, July said his mother "disappeared” and the haven’s director, Dr Crystal Watson, became the mother figure in his life.
"When my mom disappeared I didn’t have a female mentor in my life. But Dr Watson became my mother and she encouraged me and told me that this wouldn’t be the end of my life. She tried her utmost to keep me happy and she is the inspiration in my life and she is the first person that I turn to for help,” July said.
He is studying third-year BCom accounting at NMMU thanks to a bursary.
He also serves as the national youth coordinator for the National Association of Child Care Workers.
July said his dream was to build an accounting firm. "The core of my business would be giving back, because I believe that you have to, as Gandhi said, be the change you want to see in the world.
"A lot of us wait for the government or somebody else to do something but it’s about what you can do to change the situation,” he said.