In 2017 the Christian NGO, Monte Christo Miqlat (MCM), launched a new drama and writing school at the Tiffany’s Community Care Centre in Paarl East. From a group of about 30 identified youth at risk, 14 teenagers decided to join the creative programme and were enthusiastic and engaged.

But, there was a bunch of gang-related boys that had absolutely no interest in joining any of the programmes. They were sceptical, aloof and apathetic.

Meanwhile, the drama and writing school was thriving. The young actors spent endless hours in rehearsals, perfecting their production to take to the stage at many festivals and community theatres throughout the year. Their theatre talent was received with standing ovations, and the piece even won a couple of awards, including the Western Cape Government Cape Winelands prize for Best Script at the DCAS Drama Festival in February 2018.

The writing group was also making quick progress, as they started compiling and editing stories to include in their own book to be launched in March 2018. The programme drew the attention of the Noem My Skollie biography writer, John Fredericks, who now acts as the official ambassador for MCM, and is a mentor and influencer to these young kids.

Things were on the up for the MCM youth and the community was abuzz with pride.

Change of Heart

It’s February 2018, and there’s a knock on the door of MCM’s office.

The Paint Warriors of Paarl East

“We don’t want to be seen as ‘baddies’ anymore. We also want to be part of this and make a difference. We have an idea”.

They had thought of a way to help MCM and their community. Their idea was simple but powerful.  They wanted to paint the outside walls surrounding the centre.

A few days later they arrived with their own paint and brushes and started to transform the dull, grey vibracrete walls of the centre with bursts of colour and images. The walls are located on a busy road in Klein Nederburg, with many children using it to walk to their schools in Lantana. The excitement grew as kids started asking for their favourite cartoon character to be painted on the wall – from Mario Brothers to the Power Puff Girls and Elsa from Frozen.

After each request, one of the painters would run into MCM’s centre, jump on the internet and Google for an image of the cartoon character to print and copy. For many of them, it was their very first time in a community centre which created much needed exposure to the value it could bring to their lives.

The Ripple Effect

The boys have become neighbourhood heroes. The locals love swinging by to view their artistry, and to thank them for their act of kindness. They’ve now been commissioned for other painting projects in return for pocket money. They have also received sketching tools as a donation from the community church.

Their street art has become much more than just a decorative difference. The boys are painting for transformation, hope and inspiration.

“What do your group want to be known as?”, asked CEO, Aletia Grundling.

“Paint Warriors,” they answered. “Because that is our weapon now…brushes.”

[To get involved with MCM or with any of Valcare’s projects, please get in touch with us at admin@valcare.org.za.]