A young man from Ocean View is making changes to benefit the children of his community.
Luke Koeries, 18, grew up in the area and still lives there. He and his siblings were raised by his mom alone after his dad died.
He knows the challenges the children in the area face.
Tired of hearing talk from people, and seeing nothing happen, Luke decided to do something himself.
His first effort was simple – he created an Easter egg event for the neighbourhood children.
“I tested the response first over Facebook, and we had so many donations that every child could have an egg – and know they were thought about,” he said.
But that wasn’t enough for Luke. His dad, Nicholas, who was a police officer based at Ocean View police station, had done a lot of community work, and Luke has the same calling. “I remember he got a lot of satisfaction from helping others, and now I know what that feels like,” he said.
Luke is a member of the Emergency Volunteer Services (EVS) (“. He was one of the team, based in Ocean View, which was sent to battle the Knysna blazes.
They spent five days in Knysna on a farm, which they managed to save from the flames. He acredits EVS with having taught him how to work seamlessly in a team. “It is a lot about having trust and respect for each other,” he said.
But trust is hard to come by in the crime-riddled Ocean View area.
Luke is pained by the realities of danger, crime, the peddling of – and effect – of drugs in the area, and the poverty. “It is a sad combination. It means that children are not safe to play. It also means many children go to bed hungry at night,” he said.
So Luke has given a name to his organisation which represents what he wants adults to remember: Kids are Kids – and he wants to extend its reach.
“I am just one person, and I regularly feed 60 children. My mom (Evelyn) helps me with the food and we have people in the community that donate food for us to cook. We are so grateful to them. Without them, it costs us to provide the food: but the need is always there, so we can’t just not feed the children if no-one has donated.”
Luke’s idea is to form a connected line of safety throughout the community. “Ocean View is divided up into areas – most people just live in their area and don’t talk to people outside of it. But that could work, too, because all I need is one person in each area who is willing to help.”
He wants volunteers from each area to replicate what he is doing: establish a feeding group and offer food to the children where they live.
“I know there are good organisations like Open Doors, who do very good work in feeding. But sometimes the children are scared to walk there because they live far away and have no adult to go with them,” he said.
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“So I want to bring the food to them, to have it available in the area they live in,” he said.
He believes that a handful of good people can create a massive positive difference in the lives of so many. Luke’s experience with the EVS is standing him in good stead with dealing with the children. “We learned how to work together seamlessly because we have to rely on one another to make the situation better. t is actually the same for the children but they just don’t realise it yet. They don’t know when they are going to need one another. But they will. And they can start building that trust now, by playing together.”
That, Luke said, is another reason that play is so important. He says there are some children who are on the outskirts, who smoke and don’t get involved in any of the activities; or behave like bullies if they do. But he said these children are just in need of guidance.
“They are not bad, they just haven’t learned better ways of coping with the trouble in their lives,” he said.
Luke said because of his training for EVS he has done first aid and he also knows the unhealthy impact that smoking has on the body, so he shares that information with the young smokers, and talks to them about ways that they can support one another in positive ways.
He is also keenly aware that many parents don’t want other people to know that they are battling with money, so it is common for them to send their children out to friends’ houses to ask for food. “It happens a lot, and the children face the negative responses when others say no or chase them away. That’s why I just want to make the food available in each section, so the children can be fed where they live, and nobody has to be embarrassed to ask for food,” he said.
Luke is now asking for donations for takkies. He says Winter in Ocean View is especially hard on the children who have no shoes – or only wear broken shoes. He is asking for donations of all sizes to fit all ages. “They don’t even have to be new,” he says.
As an up and coming DJ, named DJ Sheriff because his dad was a policeman, Luke often sets up his music and does impromptu shows in the streets. “Sometimes music can tell a story that words can’t,” he said.
He is keen to host a proper giveaway event with music and food and games for the children to play and wants to give the children the chance to sing and perform and say thank you for the donations given, at the event.
He believes the games and feeding is a way to keep eyes on the children and give them space to be kids again. “Now during the holidays I took a bunch of kids to Kommetjie beach and we build sand castles and had a competition to see which was the biggest. It was really good to see – a lot of children don’t get to leave Ocean View at all,” he said. To help Luke, contact him on lukekoeries6@gmail,com or call him on: 074 011 7172.