Written by: Mike Makovere
Article source: JOY! Magazine
Since 1992, PEN (Participate Empower Navigate) has embodied its vision of serving communities in Gauteng by providing hope and human dignity, as well as offering various services to toddlers, the youth, and vulnerable adults. These opportunities give people in the community an opportunity to rewrite their stories and move from dependence to human dignity. Mike Makovere likes to tell others about his journey of change – how it came with its challenges, but also opportunities, dreams, and most importantly – hope.
I am Mike Makovere. I used to lie awake in the evenings, cold and not at all sure how what the next step has to be. I was trapped.
My story started several months back when I crossed the border from Zimbabwe into South Africa – the land of milk and honey. I walked, caught a bus, and begged vehicles for a spot in the back of the bakkie. Step by step I was on my way to a ‘better life’. Zimbabwe was rough, dangerous, and dry. It became a place where nothing grows anymore. There is no food, no relationships, and worst of all, no hope to build a life for me or my family.
PEN journeys with people to discover the good news of God’s love, through practical support and human dignity.
Down and out in the inner city
The choice was easy. Get to South Africa, get a job, and build a better life for myself, my wife, and our darling children. I arrived in downtown Pretoria with nothing. I had to swallow the last bit of my dignity to ask for a place to sleep. I was lucky enough to find a place in a shelter, but everything comes with a price. At night, I could not sleep because of my fellow residents’ drinking habits. I knew this was definitely not what God has for me. I endured, kept going, and did not lose hope.
Then it happened. Tshepiso saw me in the street and invited me to one of PEN’s community projects where there are support groups for people like me. People who have lost everything, but still have dreams. My dreams were and still are big. I can lose everything, but I will cherish my integrity, my dreams, and my family, despite vulnerability and homelessness. On that gloomy Thursday morning, PEN understood who and what I was about and quickly realised that I was ‘different’ from the other homeless hearts sitting there with me.
God has a plan for each of us and that change can only happen if we do our part.
I was ‘different’ because I knew I could do better and that I have worth to live life abundantly and not just to survive. Tshepiso introduced me to Andries, one of PEN’s managers, and I started helping with basic renovation work on PEN’s buildings. Andre even commented that I did the job better than the contractor. I felt proud. No, I was beaming with pride. I am skilled and I am ready to grasp any opportunity. They realised that I have the skills to implement and manage processes and systems.
The medical clinic at PEN needed a data processor, and I immediately asked Tshepiso if I could apply for the position. A week later I got the green light and, despite my challenging accommodation at the shelter, pushed on and started as a full-time employee at PEN. That is where my story about human dignity gains momentum.
Giving back to the community
Fast forward, I am currently second in command at Sediba Hope Medical Centre. I am responsible for managing budgets, people, and medical partners.
I am Mike Makovere, and I have changed my life. Despite the dusty gravel road in Zimbabwe, the abuses around me, and the temptation to leave the straight and narrow path, I kept my faith. By the Lord’s grace, today I am in a position to give back to the same community that I once belonged to, through the free basic medical services provided by Sediba Hope Medical Centre.
“I am skilled and I am ready to grasp any opportunity.”
Never give up
What have I learnt through my pain and the hard journey to freedom? That one should never, ever give up. I learnt that God has a plan for each of us and that change can only happen if we do our bit. PEN will forever have a special place in my heart. The day I called for my family to finally join me in South Africa, I gave everyone a huge hug and realised that we all build walls around our hearts without being aware of it. Today, break walls down: walls of pain and poverty, but above all, walls of injustice. My journey is not yet done, but I can pause for a moment to look at the landscape and feel the sun on my face. I am Mike Makovere, and I am free.
Date published: 17/11/2019
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