It was about two years ago, that 15-year-old Dennis Orlando ran away from Kenya to find a better life in Cape Town, but little did he know that something more than just his life was about to grow.
When Dennis first arrived in South Africa in October 2014, he roamed the streets, and lived with a family in Khayelitsha for a short while before choosing to live on the streets once again.
He never met his mother and said he believed his father was still alive “somewhere in Kenya”.
“I did not have an easy life in Kenya. From a young age, I had to fight for myself as my parents were not part of my life. I was living with other families, but it was never easy and one day, I just decided to run and not stop,” Dennis said.
While living in Khayelitsha, Dennis picked up on a new hobby that would forever change his life. In the neighbouring house, a group of men were working out, pumping iron and building their bodies. “I watched how they were pumping each other up, checking out each other’s muscles and build. I knew I want to do that,” Dennis said.
Every day, after school, Dennis would rush home and replace his books with a dumbbell, slowly getting into the swing of things, but carefully executing reps and curls as if his life depended on it. “I was doing this for a short while and then I started noticing my body was changing and I started to feel a lot better, much more confident. I didn’t want to stop, I wanted to grow bigger and bigger, but I knew it meant I would have to work harder and harder,” Dennis said.
His path, however, was once again interrupted when he found himself on the streets again.
One evening, while roaming the streets of the CBD, a blue light flashed behind him. Little did he know that his life was about to change and that he would have the opportunity to chase after his dreams. Dennis was picked up by a police officer, taken to the Cape Town Central police station, where he spent the night at the station and the following day, he was then transferred to The Homestead’s The Launch Pad, in District Six.
“When I first got here, it was very new to me and I had to get used to the set-up, because I had been living with other families in their homes, but this was different, because I was now in a home with other boys who had also been through a lot,” he explained.
Director at The Homestead, Paul Hooper, said Dennis was not much of a talker, but they immediately saw he had a goal in mind and were determined to assist. “I could see that determination in his face from day one and I just knew that I wanted to help,” said Mr Hooper, who paid for Dennis to join the Zone Fitness Club in St George’s Mall.
Dennis has since gone on to excel at bodybuilding, and participated in his first competition, the David Isaacs Classic, at the Bellville civic centre in April, being placed third out of 11 contestants.
“I was very nervous and it was my first time. So I was not sure about what the procedures were and what needed to be done. I was in a room filled with these muscular people and I was there to compete,” said the Grade 10 pupil at School of Hope in Observatory.
His third-place finish was quickly followed up with a championship medal after he secured first place in the Northern Suburbs Body Building Championships in the Bishop Lavis High School hall in May.
“I had to eat properly every single day and then I went to gym to work out for four hours each day. It took a lot out of me and on top of that, I had to focus on my studies, which I am still currently busy doing. To receive that medal and trophy at the end of it all makes everything worth it and I will not stop there,” he said.
Dennis has since stepped up his game, entering into the under-23 category, as he prepares for the Battle of the Titans Championships and the Western Cape Championships in 2017, a year he feels he could make a real name for himself.
“I quickly realised that it starts with me and I need to work hard to achieve things; it’s not just going to happen for me. I am grateful to everybody who has helped me up until now and by doing well at these events, I really hope to make them all proud. This has become my dream. I want to be a professional body builder and I will get there.”
Dennis needs supplements and transport to events. If you can help, call him on
062 542 1687.