Bulelwa Mandisa Hewitt (Mandi) grew up on a local rubbish dumps in East London, South Africa. She escaped this by running to the streets in the late 1980’s. After living on the streets for many months another street child whose name was “Muntsu” took pity on her and her younger siblings and took them to a street children shelter where they spent the rest of their childhood. Muntsu later died in the streets. Mandi is the co-founder of Umthombo Street Children, the organisation in Durban, South Africa that empowers street children to be able to leave street life. She is also an advocate for the rights of street children.
Pic 1: Mandi speaks at the Berlin Film Festival
Mandi has played a key role in advocacy around street children issues having spoken of her life experiences at events in such places as Downing Street, The Berlin Film Festival and the UN in Geneva. She was a Cosmo magazine Fun, Fearless, Female of the Year (2010) and also a Standard Bank Woman of the Year (2010) and has been featured in a Johnny Walker coffee table book and countless magazines and TV talk shows. She was also a finalist for the prestigious South African Shoprite/Checkers Woman of the Year Awards in 2010. She has visited rubbish dump communities and street children projects across Africa.
Pic 2: Mandi speaking about her life at a reception at Downing Street with British DJ Simon Mayo.
As a former street child and someone who has worked extensively with street children Mandi has a wealth of experiences and provides fascinating insights into the issue. In 2012 she left Umthombo and has just given birth to her third child but is available, periodically, for street children related advocacy consultancy. She is currently writing a book about her life.
(Pic: Mandi with Alistair Campbell and Jamie Redknapp)