Litha Tyakiwe was born in Stellenbosch though his family hails from the Eastern Cape. He is the second eldest of six children. He recalls his childhood years as being trying- both his parents were farm workers who abused alcohol with the result family life was beset with physical and emotional abuse, witnessing his mom being beaten, him feeling helpless to stand up to his father, there also being little food in the home. Despite these circumstances, he continued to pursue his schooling remembering long daily walks from Stellenbosch to Lynedoch with his brother –“This is where my brother and I grew very much close to each other. In a way that made the long walks a bit easier.”
He first noticed the Usiko van at his primary school and then started to join in with their sports activities. “I got to know Arnold and Gabriel and that is where my perception of older men changed. I was at the point of my life where I didn’t have direction, I was lost in myself and struggled to keep my dreams alive. When I started high school at Stellenzicht Scondary my path crossed again with Usiko. I had a friend who told me about the Usiko programme and my teacher, Mr Petersen, encouraged me to sign up for the Usiko programme.”
“At Usiko I came to find a space where my voice could be heard, a space where I could share my emotions with a group of other young men. This space allowed me to share my story and brought me to where I could accept myself for who I was and where I came from. I was broken at that point. Really, my life was a mess and needed to make very important decisions in my file. In the first programme we went to the wilderness and I had my very first WOW experience!!!!!!!!!!”
“I came back from that wilderness experience a new person – that is where my love for this work begun. I came back to volunteer and I had to go work somewhere else for finances. Then I got a call that Usiko needed a sport coordinator and I knew that this was the opportunity that I’d been waiting for. And here I am now doing my dream job and working with people. I always wanted a way to give back. This is now my way of doing it and I love and enjoy each moment of it.”
This young lion is fluent in Afrikaans, English and isi-Xhosa.