On 16 February 2015, we published our first Inspiring Tomorrow feature article. Penned by Ndibulele Sotondoshe – who was a final year journalism student at CPUT at that time, the article featured Thulani Mbenge, a boxer from the Eastern Cape.

Ndibulele told the story of Thulani’s struggles to ‘box away obstacles’ and overcome the challenges of pursuing his boxing dream. He wrote about Thulani’s passion and ingenuity, describing how he would use a dustbin-bag from a tree outside his home as his practice punching bag.

Thulani’s grit and determination meant that he won the 2014 Eastern Cape Sportsman of the Year award and become a Commonwealth Games medallist.

This was the start of Inspiring Tomorrow: a feature article series sponsored by the Harry Crossley Foundation that allowed FunDza staff (and some freelance writers too) to interview a total of 250 young people doing interesting and inspiring things with their lives.

We featured artists and dancers, musicians and rappers, accountants and entrepreneurs, bakers and seamstresses, recyclers and community leaders, activists, academics and financial advisers!

The range was broad – but through each of these personal stories we were able to introduce our readers to leaders that they could aspire to and look up to, young people whose lives had many challenges – and yet they reached for their dreams.

We know that these personal stories have had a huge impact on the lives of our readers from the many comments that we have received.

As Khothatso commented on the story of Azariah Alexander who found ‘success through hard work’, “The story inspires me ..as i don’t want to give up for my background ..he lifted my hopes that dreams will come true.”

And, Kenneth Alice after reading about Vhuyie da DJ, “Wow bro…that’s a wonderful story from you indeed,so inspiring and motivating esp from the fact that you are from our hood,because most of us believe to achieve we must be from rich suburbs and I think that’s where most of us are wrong,thank you am inspired bro..keep up the good work.”

After reading about community worker, Mboneleli Gqirana, Phanga was inspired and said “What Gqirana is doing will help lots of teenagers, I wish I can do something like that in my community.”

After five years of articles, we felt it was time to create space for new series and blogs, so we sadly decided to end the season of Inspiring Tomorrow. To end the series we asked each regular contributor to write about their favourite interviewee in the series. Here are their responses:

Busiswa Mahonono
I am Busiswa and I started interning at Fundza in 2020. Writing for Inspiring Tomorrow has been such a fulfilling experience. From tough childhoods, to sometimes even tougher adulthood, IT is a space of getting to understand why people are the way that they are and how hard they fought to succeed in life.

I am biased but my favourite article and interview has to be Siziwe Mahonono. Black parents don’t talk about how they were raised or their hardships but the interview gave me some insight. She got pregnant at a young age and her mother kicked her out, she had to survive by herself half her life, raising herself and also her child.

I hoped the article would bring a sense of closure to children who grew up resenting their parents, for them to realise that our parents are human beings who have dealt with worse.

Life happens but it’s up to you to decide how to handle it. IT was a reminder that there is light at the end of the tunnel, it was a reminder that the sky is not the limit, so don’t let anything or anyone ever get in your way.

Amber Solomons
I’m Amber and I was managing the IT blog for the past year. It was a wonderful learning experience. I got to read every single one of the IT blogs and had the opportunity to create the IT posts. I saw how resilient, hardworking and determined many of the IT candidates were.

It has encouraged and pushed me to succeed in whatever I put my mind to. Every single IT candidate is a true inspiration.

I think that the IT story that has had the most impact on my life is the article that I wrote on Edwina Stevens. Edwina is a strong-willed and faithful person that once she puts her mind to something then she’ll do it. She went through many trials and tribulations, but despite that she has pushed through and kept her eye on the prize. This has made me more determined to fulfil my goals for 2021, no matter how small they may be.

I will miss writing articles for IT and I’m sad to see it go, but I’m sure something equally good will happen in its place. Thank you to all the readers and stay safe and take care.

Ndibulele Sotondoshe
I’m Ndibulele, a writer and editor at FunDza. I’ve interviewed different people from all walks of life and each life story touched me uniquely. We’re humans before we’re writers and that means sometimes we can’t help but take to heart some sad stories that have landed on our ears. When people pour their heart to you, while looking at you with teary eyes, you get sucked in and overwhelmed with emotions.

Siphenkosi Mbuqe and I were sitting in a table across each other as he recounted his ordeals. He got shot two times in separate incidents, something that affected his speech and walking ability. He spent months in hospital and missed out on his college work. When he finally recovered, he went back to college and worked harder than he had ever done. Upon his graduation, he was named the top achiever and his life only got better from that point onwards.

One thing that’s common about the IT interviewees is they’ve all had their fair share of hardships but they’ve always looked beyond their current situations and triumphed. Like any good thing, the series may have come to an end but the inspiring stories shall remain forever in the hearts of those that read them.

Tamica Mopp
I’m Tamica and I’ve been writing with FunDza from 2017 to 2018 and again from 2020. It has been an amazing experience interviewing people from all walks of life, learning about their background stories and how they overcame various obstacles.

The Inspiring Tomorrow series has always inspired me since day one, before even writing for this series. Each person who appeared on this series had a unique story to tell. I loved the theme of hope, endurance and perseverance that was shown in each story, whether young or old, whether facing physical, financial or emotional difficulties. The fact that these stories came from ordinary people in itself is inspiring.

Each and every article has inspired me in some way or another, but if I had to choose one interview I’ve done that really stood out for me, then it would be on Melody Miya, entitled: From being bullied to a TV personality. His story inspired me because the very thing people made fun of him for in school, was the thing that would cause him to make a living for himself. It was a beautiful experience hearing how he now teaches others about being kind to one another.

Tshifhiwa Given Mukwevho
I read the story that Ndibulele Sotondoshe wrote on me for FunDza’s Inspiring Tomorrow with a fresh breath of inspiration, that indeed it “doesn’t matter how many times you fall, what matters is how many times you get up.” He summed the story with that adage, and it motivated me to carry on living a positive lifestyle like I have been doing since I was released from prison in November 2010.

I have loved Inspiring Tomorrow stories on the FunDza website. They are inspiring, encouraging and motivating.

Well, at some stage, it was refreshing when I also started writing Inspiring Tomorrow stories where I would interview individuals across a wider social spectrum and I was always inspired and touched by the kind of stories which they shared with me.

It’s not an easy task for me to select one story and say this is the one story that touched and moved me above everything else I wrote for IT. They all are good stories in that they speak directly to reader. But if a gun barrel were to be held against my head, I would say Olympic medallist Rofhiwa Manwadu’s story.

Rofhiwa was born with cerebral palsy, a condition which affected his body and prevented him from speaking properly. Peers called him mpengo (mad boy) because he couldn’t speak properly. But, despite the abuse from his stepfather when his mother had passed away, he went on to build up his life.

So, while the Inspiring Tomorrow series is over, we are still continuing to find new ways to inspire. Through our WorkWise series we are running a series around the top scarce skills in South Africa – and interviewing people who are working in these fields, and we continue to bring stories to our readers that challenge them and touch their hearts, and help them to imagine futures – for themselves and their communities – that are fairer, better and brighter.