I am Andre Esau, and I come from a small village on the outskirts of Stellenbosch called Vlottenburg, a poor farming community plagued with many socio-economic challenges such as HIV/Aids, alcohol and drug abuse, violence towards women and children (incl. neglect), low education levels and in many cases inhumane physical living conditions which contributes to a high mortality rate. I grew up in a predominantly Afrikaans speaking, working class family with very little or no education. I was the first person in my family of origin to complete high school, namely at Stellenzicht Secondary.
At high school, I belonged to a peer group who often got into trouble and disrupted classes. This resulted in me indulging in alcohol and substance abuse, sexual promiscuity and excessive truancy. On the brink of being expelled, my history teacher, Sammy Pietersen (seasoned Usiko mentor & currently an Usiko Trustee) recommended that I join Usiko’s Life Skills programme in 2004. During my 18 months as a mentee (client) in Usiko, I discovered that I could belong to a peer group that was not destructive; peers who shared similar brokenness and a lack of purpose and direction in life; peers who were challenged, supported and held accountable (by Usiko’s programme practitioners and mentors) to comply with school rules and finish their Matric (Grade 12). It was only during my first wilderness (2004) that I started taking ownership of my life, the consequences of my previous delinquency, and experienced a profound sense of ‘being acknowledged and cared-for’, adventure, and a dedicated space to start ‘dealing’ with a lot of the issues in my life. I shared on numerous occasions with Usiko staff, mentors and subsequent mentees that had it not been for Usiko’s involvement and support structure in my life, at that specific time, I probably would have dropped out of high school, and would have most likely gotten more entangled in criminal activity. Instead, I completed High School (2005) and qualified for the University at Stellenbosch. I ‘re-joined’ Usiko as a mentor in 2006, an experience which I valued immensely as I supported other mentees on their journey towards wholeness and healing.
Tragically, after having lost my grandmother in 2006, and grandfather in 2008 (both served as my parents for most of my life), I drew on the support from Usiko staff and mentors through this difficult period. After the acuteness of this loss passed, I continued with my Bachelor of Arts (Language & Culture) Degree at Stellenbosch University in 2010.I completed my under-graduate degree in 2014, and I’m currently completing my Post Graduate Certificate in Education, part-time (Majors: English, Psychology & Theatre Studies), with the aim of completing a Masters in Educational Psychology/Counselling Psychology.