Vanessa Frankal and a group of inspiring women have changed the life of Gabriel Mamba Kasonga, a DRC man trapped in South Africa.
Cape Town, South Africa (06 November 2020) – Gabriel Mambe Kasonga was studying to be an optometrist in the DRC but when the war broke out in 2008, he left home and came to South Africa. He came to South Africa with a group of fellow asylum seekers.
For a time, life was good in South Africa. Gabriel was working in the security industry and rented a room. He was able to support himself. Sadly he got sick and as a result, lost his job.
“He worked steadily mostly in security for 7 years, renting a room in a Maitland. After getting sick, losing his job, being unsupported with renewing his asylum papers, having his bank account frozen, and being put out on the street due to not being able to pay rent, he found himself homeless…and he’s been on the streets since 2015!”
Life on the streets has been hard but that is all over now! Vanessa Frankal met Gabriel while walking and they struck up a friendship. Vanessa heard all about Gabriel’s life and decided she had to help him. She reached out on social media asking for people to help her get Gabriel into a shelter. Vanessa offered to get him a job but Gabriel asked if he could go home instead.
They were able to get him into a shelter and so began the process of getting Gabriel home to his family in the DRC.
“I got him off the street and into the Youth Solutions Winter Programme in Salt River – a mattress to sleep on but shelter from the harsh winter evenings regardless, until Sep 28. I got him a MyCiti card to bus in/out daily to also give him a sense of dignity and belonging to the city.
His transition from day 1 to now is remarkable – the pictures speak for themselves! Brittany (a FB stranger) bought him thermal underwear, an adult colouring book and felt tips. Teresa gave him toiletries and bags of food & Dana specially cooks for him daily. A beautiful joint effort by strangers.
Gabriel had a normal life before – when we fetched his possessions from Maitland, I saw bags of clothes, shoes, an alarm clock, a Tin-Tin book, a Dictionary, his payslips, bank statements, etc. This man had a normal life with dreams of a better future, who has since had to endure horrific hardships, yet always wears a smile and blesses everyone. He’s a real earth angel who is a living example of having faith and endurance.”
They set up a crowdfund to raise R30,000 which would be used to get Gabriel’s travel documentation sorted out, a COVID-19 test to travel, his flights and money to help him resettle in the DRC. The campaign was successful and so they started making the arrangements.
They located Gabriel’s family, booked his flights and started filling a suitcase with things that he could use back home. New clothes and shoes, a travel bag, gifts for his family and more.
Brittany Potgieter, one of the women who helped Vanessa, spoke to her father who lives in Pretoria. Her father Solomon has opened his home to Gabriel. He will drive Gabriel to the DRC embassy and all the other places he needs to go.
“Gabriel touched my heart, and a few others I think. Teresa Woods Zive went out of her way to drive the campaign and arrange logistics which made it possible for him to get on a plane on Thursday this week to Lubumbashi. Dana Lazerson fed Gabriel almost daily and kept him sustained and feeling loved and cared for. Brittany Brit Potgieter and her family have shown him immense kindness and care, beyond expectation. Jenna Volkwyn who Ubered two huge bags of beautiful clothes for Gabriel last night, in time for him to take them today. Also to BackaBuddy for hosting his campaign and doing all the admin. Big thanks to Anociata Mukamusoni and Kas who amazingly located his family in Lubumbashi, so when he arrives he will actually goes to stay with his sister for a week, until he’s settled. Some people very close to him have passed, so it will be a happy and sad reunion, no doubt.”
We will be staggering his funds sent to him, so that he is not taken for any rides or suffer any unforeseen financial losses. He is going home with 4 new pairs of shoes, a whole new wardrobe of clothes, reading glasses, Brittany’s fancy suitcase, gifts for his sisters, a new watch he bought, some money on which to live for a month, toiletries and most importantly a new sense of self and pride. I did notice that his massively oversized blue coat I first ‘met him in’ was not packed – glad he could leave some of his ‘past’ behind in preparation for his fresh new start.”
Gabriel flew home to his family last night. Vanessa plans to keep everyone updated as he settles in again. You can follow her for updates here.