MALABAR resident Nafeesa Leonard is a shining example of how determination trumps circumstance. The 18-year-old, who will be leaving for Okinawa, Japan in June to participate in the Meibukan Karate Tournament, is training youngsters to follow in her footsteps.
She is also studying mathematics and science full time at PE College to create a future for herself.
“I failed matric last year which is why I am studying at college to better my marks and pursue my dream of studying nursing. The reason I didn’t pass was because I used to be aggressive when I was in school. I also had very low self-esteem.
“Then, in 2010 I took up karate as a outlet. Karate taught me self control and built my self esteem immensely. Once I had found myself I realised what I needed to do and got on with it,” Leonard said.
With the anticipation of travelling and competing with the world’s best at the back of her mind, Leonard said she was not going to Japan just to try and win a tournament. She rather wanted to take the opportunity to develop her talent and learn from experience.
She is also very excited to see the world and have fun with her friends from the dojo. She trains at the Eastern School of Karate in Parkside, where she has received a brown belt.
She said once she had her own life in perspective it allowed her to notice the plight of the children in and around her area.
“Once you have helped yourself you realise that there are other people who are looking up to you for help.
“While training I noticed a few children from Malabar extension always came to watch us but their parents couldn’t afford the training fees.
“I decided that I would train them myself.
“So last year in November we started with four kids and now we have grown to about 20 kids. They will be participating in their first tournament on Saturday.
“These kids really enjoy the classes. One can see it in their faces. Karate has kept them off the streets and taught them self discipline. It has also provided another family for them. They know if they have any problems my family home is always open to them,” Leonard said.