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When Elizabeth Mabuza fell pregnant in her Matric year she didn’t see it as stumbling block.

“I had the baby in September and wrote my exams in October and I passed my Matric.”

Now, 44 years old,  Elizabeth now sees this life-changing event as the catalyst for her passion – mentoring young children in her hometown of Tzaneen.

Fifteen years ago, she founded Keep the Dream 196 along with Louise Batty. The Tzaneen-based organisation strives to empower orphans, caregivers and vulnerable children in the community.

“I didn’t start out working in the NGO space. I’m actually a qualified teacher,” she explains.

After graduating from teacher’s college in the late 1990s, she had difficulty securing a full-time job, so she started volunteering at a local orphanage. But what was meant to be a short stint quickly evolved into her life’s passion.

Keep the Dream 196 runs a number of projects that train caregivers and children in communication and leadership skills. One of their most successful is the scouting programme, which was launched in 2003 with only 13 students.

“We wanted to have a programme where kids could have a sense of belonging and also learn valuable life skills,” Elizabeth says.

“Peer pressure is the main thing that’s affecting our youth today.  And that’s what we’re seeing being broken you find that instead of having problems with dating, drug and alcohol abuse – they can say no.”

Since its inception the programme has produced more than 3000 scouts. Their alums are now doctors, nurses, teachers , social workers and psychologists.

“Our main vision is to build children’s strength – physically, holistically, (which is your physical, emotional, spiritual, intellectual needs), and to help them to be better citizens of tomorrow,” she says.