Kiara Cornelissen lives in Paarl’s Chicago neighbourhood, a community plagued by poverty and crime. Despite these challenging circumstances, Kiara focuses on creating a better life for herself and her family.

“While my parents work hard to provide for our family, I see many people in our community struggle,” Kiara shared.

Substance abuse, unemployment, and financial hardships are stark realities in Chicago. However, instead of succumbing to despair, Kiara’s rugged surroundings have ignited her determination to succeed and transcend her circumstances. She is motivated to excel in school, striving for a brighter future.

Discovering solace and hope

At age 10, Kiara found solace and inspiration at Fountain of Hope (FOH), where she would attend netball practice and find a safe space to complete her homework. FOH is a non-profit organisation empowering vulnerable youth in the Drakenstein and Cape Winelands areas. Their initiatives include an internet café, aftercare services, sports activities, and a soup kitchen, creating a nurturing environment for young individuals to thrive.

“I started coming to Fountain of Hope when I was 10, and being in this space opened my eyes to new realities. Despite my background and difficulties, my mindset helps me appreciate what I have, and I work hard to overcome my circumstances,” Kiara commented.

A young leader and role model

Kiara is currently in Grade 7 and serves as the deputy head girl at her school. She shared that she finds great value and fulfilment in her leadership position.

“It allows me to develop essential life skills, contribute to my school community, and positively impact my peers. I strive to always demonstrate integrity, honesty, and kindness in my interactions. By being a positive influence, I believe I can leave a lasting impression on the lives of others,” Kiara expressed.

Mathematics and English are her favourite subjects, and she aspires to become an accountant one day.

“My goal is to complete my education, attend university, and secure a job to support my parents financially. They are my support pillars, constantly encouraging me to strive for excellence. Even when my father faced retrenchment, they ensured I had what I needed,” she explained.

A bright future for a talented netball player

According to Vanessa Adams, the founder of Fountain of Hope, Kiara displays remarkable athleticism and excels as a netball player.

“One of our core principles at Fountain of Hope is that all youths who participate in sports here must also engage in sports at their respective schools. Kiara is one of the most outstanding netball players I have encountered, and her dedication to the sport is commendable,” she praised.

“Kiara consistently arrives on time after school and requires no extra motivation or focus. She willingly assists younger children and fellow players at the centre, becoming their role model due to her discipline, focus, and unwavering commitment,” Vanessa added.

“Netball is my passion. Playing netball brings happiness and fulfilment to my life. Combined with my academic pursuits, I believe it will pave the way for a better future,” Kiara concluded.