By Riaan Marais
No angel in his youth, pastor now gives his all to Helenvale youngsters
Growing up in Helenvale, Samuel Davids had one of two choices – follow in the footsteps of his reverend father or go down the path of gangsterism like his oldest brother.
And at the age of nine, he almost went down the wrong path when he started planning his revenge on the man who murdered his brother, Timothy, in a gangrelated shooting.
But now, a pastor and community leader in the neighbourhood where he grew up, Davids, 45, does everything in his power to help Helenvale’s at-risk youth through his own church, Apostolic Vision International Ministry, and his non-profit organisation, the Helenvale Youth Enrichment Project (HYEP).
“I went through some tough times and, believe me, growing up I was no angel,” he said.
“But today I do what I can to develop our youth and give them a chance to avoid going down the path of crime and gangs.”
Walking down Kobus Road, Davids is a well-known face in Port Elizabeth’s northern areas.
Men, women and children call his name, waving and smiling, and Davids returns the smiles, greeting people by their first names.
Davids has been nominated for The Herald Citizen of the Year and hopes to see his name among this year’s finalists.
He left school and Port Elizabeth, working as a sales representative for Telkom in Pretoria.
However, his father’s death in the early 2000s brought him back to the city and to his true calling – youth development in Helenvale.
He was nominated for Citizen of the Year by Helenvale resident Desiree May, who says no one is more deserving of this year’s title than Davids.
“Pastor Davids is the most selfless person I know. He always goes beyond the call of duty, often at his own expense,” she said.
“He has assisted a lot of young people, from securing funds for further studies to securing internships, work and a range of other opportunities.”
Davids started working as a youth development leader for the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality and became involved in a number of churches before starting his own ministry 15 years ago, but HYEP (pronounced hype) has been his true passion since 2006.
“Over the years we ran a number of projects aimed at youth development, many of them with great success,” he said.
“My goal is to start projects that I can hand over to the community, so that they can empower themselves.”
Among their projects was research done, with the help of social work students from NMU, into early childhood development of children up to the age of four, creating a basis for their work in the community.
“This research helped us a lot to realise the kind of abuse many children face, and the direct link between meaningful family bonds and early childhood development,” Davids said.
“This research is still relevant today, and social workers in our area still apply what the study uncovered.”
HYEP also started a back-toschool programme, helping primary and high school dropouts to be reintegrated into schools and catch up on the schooling they missed.
“One of our most successful projects to date was an annual street soccer tournament we held from 2007 to 2010,” Davids said.
“From speaking to teenagers and young gangsters on the street, I realised that they turned to crime because there was nothing better to do.
“We brought in the tournament, gave them prizes to play for, and this effectively led to the disbanding of three street gangs and a significant drop in the area’s crime rate.
“Unfortunately when funds for the tournament dried up in 2011, the murder rate in Helenvale shot up again.”
His main project at the moment is the development of Helenvale TV, a project affiliated with television channel Bay TV, aimed at getting the youth involved in creative arts.