Growing up in a child-headed household, without the guidance and love of a parent or adult, often leads to long-term trauma and emotional scars. Unfortunately, this is the all-too familiar reality that children in Alex face.

Lerato* lost her mother when she was just 14 years old. “I used to care for my mother, so I was the one to hold her while she passed away,” she said. “Her death disturbed me greatly, and I struggled in school as a result. I failed every class.”

While Lerato’s eldest brother supported her and her younger sibling at the time, he withdrew his support when she fell pregnant a few years later, forcing her to fend for herself, her sibling and an infant.

Teen pregnancy is, unfortunately, often a consequence of parent-less homes. In fact, the rate of teen pregnancies have been on the rise in South Africa, with a 50% increase in the number of teen girls giving birth at public health facilities over the last five years.

Children dropping out of school and getting pregnant are just two of the many ripple effects of the cycle of poverty in South Africa. Other detrimental effects include a continued reliance on government grants, which drains public funds, as well as crime and violence as young people in these circumstances become desperate to make ends meet.

Rays of Hope Alexandra is working towards changing the narrative of poverty for the people of Alexandra. We met Lerato’s family when she was 19 years old and supported them physically and emotionally and were even able to offer Lerato her first job and a means to provide for her family, thereby stopping the cycle of poverty in its tracks by moving them from vulnerability to independence. Lerato also now works for Rays of Hope.

Through its various programs, like the teenage boys and girls support group, workshops dedicated to helping parents be better parents and the counselling centre, Rays of Hope is striving to make a positive impact from the grassroots level. Their vision is to create empowered resilient leaders and families living with dignity and hope.

Intervening at a young age is essential to breaking the cycle of poverty and giving every child the chance to enjoy a healthy, nurturing, and fulfilling childhood. Rays of Hope is committed to bringing lasting change in this way, but we could use your help to make this happen.

Donate, sponsor a child or partner with Rays of Hope – find out how by clicking here.