HE stands no more than 1.5m tall, wears battered old shoes which are too big and a tatty shirt. But Lwando Kana – who says he is 20 but looks no older than 12 – bravely washes cars every day at a Zwide car wash in Nelson Mandela Bay, desperately trying to earn enough for him and his little sister to survive.
Kana said he had been saddled with the responsibility of being the head of the house, taking care of his sister, after his mother died a few years ago. He never knew his father.
Dressed in a small pyjama top for warmth against the winter chill, Kana remains cheerful despite the trying circumstances.
“I live with my sister and am not in school. My mom passed away a few years ago and my father was never there. I had to leave school. I work here at the car wash just so that I can earn some money to take home. I live on a day-to-day basis earning R50 washing these cars, because there are no older people living in the house.
“Each day after work I go to buy food and electricity for the house and that is how I live,” he said.
Kana said that his only dream was to “go to a traditional Xhosa male initiation school in order to become a man, but I don’t have the money”.
Barely two streets away from the car wash is Ntombentsha Moshani, 19, who lives with a neighbour who took her in after her parents died.
She is one of six children and collects a social grant for only two of her young siblings, leaving her to rely on neighbours’ generosity for food, clothing and shelter.
She said her relatives had deserted her after her mother died nearly three years ago, leaving her the sole custodian of her five siblings.
“I started to take care of my little brothers and sisters after my parents passed away. When my mother passed away a few years ago, my family sold the house that we were living in and we were left with nothing.
“I do not live with my family because they drink a lot. I currently live with a neighbour who took me in and right now it is hard to take care of my siblings, because we are separated and live in people’s homes. I collect the child support grant for two of them and I buy them clothes and food but it’s not enough.”
Despite these challenges, the Grade 11 pupil said she dreamed of going to university to study social work.
“I know what it feels like and I know how hard it is out there and I think I will be able to relate to what others may be going through,” she said.