I’m Dumaeza Nhlapo, the first Youth Worker employed by The Feast Tower Hamlets. I’m originally from one of the biggest Townships in South Africa called Soweto, where I was born and raised (…my brain just finished that sentence with the rap from Fresh Prince of Bel Air! Is that weird?).
I had the privilege of being born in the mid-80s when things where beginning to change politically in South Africa because of Nelson Mandela and many others of his generation of freedom fighters (like my grandfather A.P. Mda). As a result, I missed a lot of the negatives of growing up in Apartheid, and benefitted from the new freedoms that Black people had in South Africa: So whereas there was racial segregation in schools (and every other area of life) when I was born, by the time I went to school – it was a multiracial one, which allowed me to develop friendships and do life with White people in a way unimaginable just a few years before; though this was still not the norm most South Africans. But this timing also means I was a bit too young to remember any of the big historical events like Mandela’s release – though I feel like I do because those scenes are so iconic and make up the cultural backdrop of South Africa. It always trips me out when I realise that at the time I was born (1984), it would have been illegal to be married to my wife – because she is White lady! That’s how far South Africa has come in such a short time.
I’ve done youth work in one way or another since I was a youth, and have a bias towards troubled and trouble-making youths, probably because I was one. I first came to England in 2003, to do a Youth Work diploma. I lived and worked in North Devon (where I met my wife). We got married in 2007 and moved to London in February 2008. So I’m a husband, and father (which I consider my main callings in life, and what I am most passionate about). I also serve a small church plant called Journey Church in Shoreditch as one of the pastors. These are the things that occupy my time, and now I’m adding working for The Feast to that.
I’m looking forward to getting stuck in to our work. My son Jeho’ash is just over a year old right now, but it won’t be long until he is in school mixing with people of other faiths and cultures. But what can happen is that these encounters can be hostile and aggressive. So I think the work that The Feast does is so important because it helps young people share their faith (and thereby grow in their faith) in a positive way, and helps them understand (and be understood) by those who don’t share their faith. As a follower of Jesus, my faith is central to everything I do, from how I parent my son, to the type of husband I am, to the work I do; and I imagine it’s the same for other faiths. But often times, with things becoming increasingly secular, there isn’t really space for young people (and old) to share and express their faith in a positive way. But that is asking people of faith to deny (or at least put on the shelf) a very important part of their life, which I don’t believe is right. So I’m excited to be part of creating that space with The Feast.