As reported by journalist Sibonga Mama in the Cape Argus earlier this year, a Cape Town Big Issue seller’s journey has taken her from the streets to a university lecture room, thanks to bucket-loads of perseverance and the generosity of a Good Samaritan.
Cynthia Gogotya, 46, who matriculated three years ago, has risen from the struggles of unemployment and is on her way to studying towards a social work degree at Unisa. Her dreams came true when an anonymous donor gave her R10 000 in April 2012.
“I thought it was a joke. He called me and I just said ‘Yes’ to everything when he said he wanted to meet on Monday,” she said. “We met at the Big Issue offices and he really had the money, R10 000 in R100 notes in a black envelope. I’ve never seen that much money in front of me.”
The anonymous donor read Gogotya’s story in the March issue of Big Issue, in which she expressed her wishes to become a social worker, and decided to donate R10 000 to her as part of Wearelucky. This project was started by an anonymous person who decided to give £1 000 (R12 690) to a stranger on the basis that he or she did something good with the money, said Big Issue editor Melany Bendix.
“Based on the pay-it-forward concept, people who join Wearelucky give the same amount – or as close to it as possible – to a person of their choice anonymously, in cash and with no strings attached,” said Bendix.
Gogotya, who has been a Big Issue vendor for five years, said getting the R10 000 was beyond her wildest dreams. “I got enough for a year’s tuition and other people also donated, bringing the total to R12 000. I took all of it straight to the university; I don’t want to mess around,” she said.
Gogotya couldn’t wait to get started with lectures. “I’m so excited, I’ve wanted to study forever but I just didn’t have the money to. I’ve already got a bag for my books. It took me three years to get my matric, and I was always in and out of school throughout my younger schooling years, but I did it. I can’t wait to take this on,” said Gogotya.
She said she wanted a social worker’s degree so that she could help her community, and also hoped that her studying would inspire not only her two daughters, Lydia, 15, and Nandipha, 8, but her community as well. They live with her brother in Philippi. “I want other vendors to see that they don’t have to be vendors all their lives, either. If you want help and you’re sincere about it, you will get it,” said Gogotya. “I want my children to see me move on up and I want them to be inspired to do the same.”
Asked if she was not nervous about having to deal with university jargon, Gogotya said: “Bring it on! I’ve got this; I’ll whip that English into shape.”
This article originally appeared in the Cape Argus and is used by permission.