You can imagine the resentment when the very same face that mugged you, now knocks on your door for a good cause. Yes, the very same guy from the once-upon a time notorious gang in the hood, is now a changed man and instead of taking away from you he asks you to help feed children.
The above is a living testimony of 32-year old Samuel Kapepo who has turned away from crime to provide homeless children with a life he was not fortunate to have. To narrate his ordeal, The Lounge caught up with this changed man on the streets of Ombili at a soup kitchen he runs since 2005.
The life of Kapepo is not one many would share publicly, but already for one to accept that he did wrong in the past, qualifies for a starter. There are second chances in life after all.
Born in Oshakati and raised in the dusty streets of Oshikango, Kapepo’s guardian was anybody who offered him food for the day. He was a cattle header at some point (do not ask about school). With no proper guidance on how to approach life, Kapepo was tempted to resort to crime for survival at the age of 16. From street mugging to almost every petty crime you can think of, Kapepo with a gang of other young boys, were not the right people to cross paths with on the streets.
“I remember doing not- so- good things those days. I was lured in doing things to survive and just because it looked cool. We were feared and at the same time we felt like heroes because we made our names, of course for the wrong reasons. Life was easier when we were in a group and we could look out for each other.”
“I have been in jail more than 10 times. It was an in and out custom. The longest time I served was 7 months.”
Being in and out of jail, Kapepo, (raising his left arm) said he got his first bullet wound (on his wrist) in 2001 when they tried to make the wrong person a victim.
Whether this was what he needed to realise that there is more to life than upsetting people, in the following years, Kapepo decided to make a U-turn on his actions.
Narrating his turning point, Kapepo schooled this publication that life is all about the choices one makes in the limited chances that they are accorded.
“Currently, I’ve lost some of my friends. Some have died and some were sentenced to more than 70 years in prison. Ask me how I escaped the 70 years sentence and I will tell you that I was just lucky. I was shot and I saw a lot of things that were happening. It was just the right time for me to quit.”
“I spoke to my friends that we should do something as young people, and we should be known when we are no more. People must not just remember us for robbing others. This was the birthing of the soup kitchen in 2005.”
At the same time, Kapepo broke into the film industry and faired very well, landing him an opportunity to fly out of the country to places like France and Germany.
“When I was now in the film industry, I realized that crime wouldn’t serve me any good. Imagine your agent is looking for you and you are behind bars.”
“I came to know my biggest salary in my life ever. I couldn’t imagine getting paid N$1500 weekly. I wanted to do something with my life and I decided to leave crime.”
In 2005, he opened a soup kitchen, a centre in the Ombili informal settlement where children come for a meal after school and get lessons of life from the changed man.
“The idea of opening a soup kitchen is from the reality of my past. You can imagine during Christmas Day seeing other children getting nice things at shopping malls and you are there with nothing. I couldn’t get everything I wanted as a child because my parents couldn’t afford it, so I want to give children an opportunity to have things I did not have.”
They started feeding 99 children and at the same time collecting clothes and catering for other needs to provide for children. In a room full of second-hand clothes, food and school books, Kapepo said; “We don’t only give food but also hope.”
“People gave up on me back then. Even my teachers didn’t want me to go to school because I was trouble. But now they welcome me and are happy with what I’m doing.”
“My childhood was not the best at all. That is why I want to work with kids. I want to tell them not to follow my footsteps. It is easy for me because I can tell them why.”
With his not so pleasant past, Kapepo faced hell convincing his community to support his cause as well as registering the organization. With his earrings, a floppy and street wear, many people shut their doors on him but he did not give up.
“I knew that what I wanted to do was something good for the children so I did not give up. Eventually, people started seeing the bigger picture and started supporting me.”
His work in the community has scooped him many awards including the Namibia Breweries Community Ambassador in 2014.
Now an actor and motivational speaker, Kapepo is destined to bring hope to the same communities he once caused misery. On a part time basis, he runs a tour guide business on the streets of Ombili, “So I do not go to bed hungry.”
“I am ashamed for what I have done and it will take years to forgive myself. So all I need from my people is love, hope and prayer.
I will continue to work with the children and make sure they do not experience what I went through. Children are the future and you cannot tell me that they are the future for tomorrow, if you are not here for them today.