Thulani Madondo

At an hour when most people are only preparing to go to work Thulani Madondo is welcoming 400 young people to the Kliptown Youth Programme (KYP). As executive director of KYP, 31-year-old Madondo is involved in every aspect of this extracurricular support programme, from making sure every child gets a hearty breakfast to overseeing their after-school homework tutoring and skills training. Growing up and staying focused was not easy for Madondo, who was raised by his mother in a one-room shack that he shared with his seven siblings. He uses his own life as a living example for those from similar backgrounds, highlighting the possibilities open to those who focus on their education. After matric he gained access to youth development programmes that shaped his understanding of how strong democracies need active citizens. Armed with a Community Development Diploma from the University of the Witwatersrand and seven years of training and experience in various youth development programmes, he decided to help to build his community by opening KYP in 2007. In 2012 Madondo officially gained the title of hero — something his Kliptown community has been calling him for years. He was chosen as one of 10 CNN Heroes from a pool of 45 000 hopefuls. He is the first South African to win this accolade and was the only African representative that year. Another of his trailblazing contributions is the introduction to South Africa of the One Laptop Per Child programme. This United States-based non-profit organisation provides the world’s poorest children with access to rugged, lowcost, low-power laptops with content and software designed for self-empowered learning. Demonstrating the humility that is characteristic of true heroes Madondo glosses over the accolades he has received and cites as his greatest achievement the 20 young people who have graduated from his programme and gone on to college or university. — Taryn Mackay