Graduation ceremonies can be too costly for students like Tyra Ilunga to attend, but through the efforts of locals from East London close to R13,000 was raised to enable her to be there on her big day later this month.
Locals came together to cover what they could for clothes, accommodation, travel and food.
Ilunga, who is from East London but studied towards a diploma in real estate at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology in the Western Cape, knew the financial strain of attending the ceremony would it make it impossible for her to be there.
“My graduation day means a lot (after) the hard work I have put into my studies for the past three years,” she said.
“The only income we get as a family is my sister’s grant and the income my mother makes as street vendor selling sweets and toys in front of a primary school.
“Because of this I had mixed emotions about my graduation day and felt despondent because I knew there were no finances for me to go.”
Ilunga’s family reached out to friends and locals quickly responded, eager to help cover expenses like accommodation, food and travel for Illunga and her mother, Shirley.
Local business owner and public servant Simone Klaasen rallied families and small business owners to contribute whatever they could and the response was overwhelming.
Klaasen said: “I had goosebumps every time a notification came through from friends and family all over South Africa that are from East London, who were willing to help even though life is hard.
“When it comes to any child needing support, I believe we have to reach back and help.
“We all come from hard times or trauma and we need to change lives if we can and bring hope to desperate situations.”
Another donor said “Let’s send her to Cape Town with love from East London. To our mayor Princess Faku, this is what happens when we work together — no division, no fighting, and building for the community.”
Farida Myburgh, who paid the accommodation expenses, said: “There was no way I, as a mother, was not going to help to make this moment possible for another mother.
“As she walks across the stage I want her to remember she has made her family proud. We as a global community are walking with her in spirit . The world is now her oyster.”
Ilunga and her mother are overjoyed with the support they have received. “I am still in shock that there are so many generous people out there that came together to help me and my family. I am still full of emotions and will forever remember this wonderful blessing, and to also be a blessing to others,” Ilunga said.
“I would like to thank each and every one that has come together to bless me . I am humbled and in awe. Just thinking about it brings tears to my eyes. I thank God for sending his angels to lend a helping hand,” she said.
“After graduation, I hope to get an internship at a property management and development company and eventually start my own business that deals with property rentals/leasing as well as property development of townships and urban areas.”