Ashwill determined to turn his life around

Ashwill Hermanus

The road for Ashwill Hermanus has been rough – on the streets since the age of 18 and in and out of prison, he is now looking to turn his life around through art.

Mr Hermanus, 39, found himself on the streets after his mother had left their hometown of Knysna for Cape Town. He found himself in and out of prison with the prospects of a better life seeming bleak.

But while in prison, he met a man who awoke a passion he didn’t know he had.

“I met a man working in the garden. At first I just watched him create pieces and later asked if I could help him work in the garden. After some time, I asked if he could teach me and there I learnt to create art work using clay,” said Mr Hermanus.

He used the rest of his time in prison to work on his art, taking art classes and learning how to paint.

In 2010, he decided to come and look for his mother in Cape Town but his search came up empty and he still found himself on the streets.

Throughout the years, he kept working on his craft.

At the start of lockdown, he found himself in Claremont and landed up at U-Turn Homeless Ministries service centre. They however, could not assist him at the time, due to the lockdown restrictions but they helped him get back to Mitchell’s Plain, where he had lived.

Some time later, he landed back at U-Turn, a Christian-based NGO which helps the homeless, and he has been taking part in their programmes since.

U-Turn Homeless Ministries service.

The programmes provide food and clothing and other basic needs, followed by drug-and-alcohol rehabilitation and then vocational training, called the “life change” programme, which offers work placement at one of U-Turn’s charity shops, its laundry or service centre. The shops are managed by formerly homeless people and offer on-the-job training.

Participants can also access weekly occupational therapy, relapse prevention and formal training in English, literacy, IT, as well as accredited business management for some.

U-Turn homeless support worker, Tamzin Adriaans, said that Mr Hermanus had been coming to the programme and taking part in various sessions daily.

“I have seen a lot of growth in Mr Hermanus over the past few months,” she said.

Mr Hermanus is still living on the streets, but he is determined to turn his life around.

He can be seen daily in Claremont with his paint brush, which he said he guarded with his life.

Besides drawing, Mr Hermanus loves sculpting with clay and he is looking for someone who can assist him, through mentorship, to turn his passion into something he can make a living off.

He thanked U-Turn for helping him and making him feel welcomed and loved.

“I have this passion and desire in me to paint and sculpt. I was going through a dark time, but art helped me to see the light and I do not want my God-given talent to go waste,” he said.

U-turn service centre is on the corner of Stegman and Hawthorne roads, Claremont and is open Monday to Friday from 9am to 4pm. If you can assist Mr Hermanus, contact Ms Adriaans at 021 300 5070 or email supporters@homeless.org.za