SOUTH AFRICA: Free art and drama therapy help inner-city children in Joburg find their way

Lefika la Phodiso is an initiative that has been running for 14 years and helps children in the Joburg CBD with programmes, such as arts and drama. Facilitators at Lefika use visual arts, drama and music to provide free after-school therapy for children in the inner city. The bright walls and art created by students contrast with the aged building's brown exterior.

Through the programmes offered by Lefika, Hlomla Sithole, 16, says he has moved from being a shy boy struggling with speech to someone who is confident and able to express himself. When he was 13 years old, Hlomla joined Uhambo: The Journey, a programme offered at Lefika using storytelling and story writing to encourage the children to read and help them process their daily experiences. Hlomla says he has not had an easy life, and writing stories has helped him become more self-assured.

"At school, people used to tell me that I was boring but I know that I am not boring, and my ability to write stories reminds me of that. There was a time when things were really difficult at home, my mom was sick and we had to look after her. To help me through that time, I just kept writing," he says.

Ziyanda Magadla, a facilitator at Lefika shares, "Lefika gives children a space to express themselves. We ask them to explain their images. We act out scenarios to help them make sense of their feelings and to imagine the kind of environments they wish to exist in. Through this, they open up, and children who need to speak further feel comfortable enough to speak to us".

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