Luke Koeries is living an inspired life.
The young Ocean View resident’s dream of helping model a better life for the children in his community is being realised step by step.
He speaks candidly about growing up in an area fraught with gang violence and the daily dangers that the children face.
At 18 years of age he formed an NPO called Kids are Kids. His vision started small – helping kids in the area enjoy Easter, get meals, get some shoes donated.
“Our mission is to mentor and educate the next generation of leaders, to teach them how to make a difference in the communities in which they live,” said Luke.
On his own, he started asking for help. And as he delivered on his promises, that help grew and so did his reach.
“I run a walking bus project with two trusted friends which operates from Monday to Friday. We are ensuring that children are getting to school and back home safely each day by walking with them. They are especially at risk so they need to get to school and back safely to ensure their education is not upset by the gang violence,” Luke said.
Kids are Kids also has a programme called a Power Hour. “This is an hour of fitness exercises that the children take part in after their homework, to keep them healthy and it is also fun for them. During the sports they learn about teamwork,” he said.
“We feed the kids daily, Monday through to Friday. This is done by donations from the community and beyond. My mom also helps me with this,” Luke grins.
“We have an after school programme where we help kids with their homework, reading and projects,” he said.
During the holidays and weekends Kid sare Kids run a holiday programme which includes games, hikes, big walks, cleaning beaches and movie night; outside, he said.
For Luke, environment is another key aspect. What he doesn’t mention is that he is also a trained Emergency Services Volunteer and has spent many dark hours battling blazes on the mountainside and in the surrounding communities.
Having grown up in the area could have numbed him to the situation, so I asked Luke why he does what he does.
“I would like to ensure that as many children as possible go to bed each night having had a meal during the day and with a smile on their faces remembering the things they did during the day. For every child to know that they are loved and that someone cares about them. For every child to know that they have someone to go to if they are in trouble or need to talk to someone,” he said.
He had that, growing up. His father Nicholas Koeries was a policeman and instilled a deep sense of community in his young son before he died. And Luke has his mother, Evelyn, close by and involved in his Kids are Kids activities.
“It is great having a mom who’s always there to help you with whatever you come up with. I couldn’t ask for more… my mom plays a big role in my life and my dad, who is no longer around, was my role model,” Luke said.
Luke is now adding a new focus to his repertoire.
“Our new project is called Empowering Talent. This project highlights all positive things in the community. We will be making videos and interviewing the people doing these positive things in the community. Then we will blend all these smaller clips and make one long video which we will take to schools in our area – and beyond if other schools are interested,” Luke said.
Why? “To show children that there is more than just negative things to look up to. I’m 100% sure that this will change the lives of children – and the lives of older people who see the good that is happening,”Luke said.
His ultimate goal is to get a people mover or van to take the children out on outings.
Believe it or not, there are children in Ocean View who have never left Ocean View.
Kids are Kids has successfully organised two Easter events and a Christmas event where the children receive Easter eggs and Christmas gifts. Last Easter more than 600 children received Easter eggs due to generous donations to Luke’s cause. He has received help from the Rotary Club of Good Hope and some businesses.
For the winter months ahead Kids are Kids is in need of donations of winter tops, warm and waterproof clothing for the walking bus team, games and outside entertainment items, stationery for homework and project activities and a laptop and printer for children to use for their projects.
To help Luke, contact him on lukekoeries6@gmail,com or call him on 074 011 7172.