“Seeing children safe and happy in our schools and community is a daily reward for me,” said Poppy Lebethe, a Bethanie woman who strives to keep her community safe.
Poppy’s need to help safeguard the well-being of children in schools as well as that of people in her community comes from her ordeal of having to care for herself and two siblings at a young age.
After her father died and her mother relocated to Japan for work, putting food on the table and still finishing matric was no child’s play. In 2015, she was elected the chairperson of the Community Policing Forum (CPF), a position she still retains to this day. “Being an active member of my community, I joined the CPF because of the rapid increase in the level of crime in my community,” says the Bethanie born and raised woman. The increase in drug usage by pupils and bullying that takes place in schools is of great concern and she, along with a team, have put measures in place to eradicate this problem.
“We have put people in schools and their responsibility is to ensure that there are no drugs and bullying at schools. In areas where schools are next to busy roads, we ensure kids cross the roads safely and of course we do this working with the school’s educators,” she says. Lebethe and her members also visit schools in her community to create awareness on the negative effects of bullying and gangsterism in a quest to have safer schooling environments.
The desire she has, to see children safe and happy, goes as far as ensuring that disadvantaged children get necessary support from relevant institutions, and those who are victims of abuse receive counselling. Her passion for a safer community has seen Bethanie having CPF members patrolling the streets at night to ensure that the residents are safe from criminals. The Bethanie CPF chairperson says that at one stage she was living with alone with her children and this fuelled her love for community safety work as she felt the need to protect her children from drugs and crime.
Last year, Poppy was elected as a cluster board executive member and she sees this as a step in a right direction to ensure a safer community and schools. Although she is volunteering for the CPF, her passion for safety led her to invest in the growth of the CPF members who are hard at work every day safeguarding the community. “The people who patrol at night and those who guard our school are volunteering and are not being paid, and since I’ve done security training I felt a need to have them trained as well so they are able to find work and put food on their tables,” says Lebethe.
Her quest to get funding to have the CPF members sent to a security training school soon paid off when Rhovan mine stepped in to assist. The funding saw 20 members receive security certificates on completion of their training, six of them have since been employed. The impact that Lebethe and her CPF members have in Bethanie make them preferable as marshals whenever there are local events. Being a CPF chairperson, a cluster board executive member, ward committee member in public safety portfolio and working as a debt collector, she considers herself as a hustler and encourage young people to never sit with folded arms waiting for things to happen, but make things happen instead.
“Young people must go out, volunteer if need be and they must be go-getters. They must refrain from crime and drugs, respect each other and be loyal.”
The Bethanie CPF chairperson is married with four children and likes laughing a lot, playing netball and watching safety programmes on television, and further says she is grateful to everyone who played a vital role in her life.