23rd Nov 2017 5:34:59 AM

The Charities | The Children | Dorah Mokoena | Health | Schools / Training | Community | Regional Reports | UMashesha
Ado Balombo Bambula
Agnes Wabiwa
Amanda Simanga
Amina Mahamat
Amukelani Dube
Andani Mphaphuli
Anele Nyongwana
Babalwa Debele
Babalwa Mfengu
Baby Babongile
Bafana Nzima
Basheeba Worlotoe
Boipelo Mosegedi
Bongani Madlala
Bongani Phakati
Busisiwe C
Caroline Gichuki
Chris M
Deon Slabbert
Emmanuel Lawal
Evelyn Minto Essono's
Fursy Mugobe
Gabriel C
Gamuchirai Vanessa Gohodza
Gontise Mogotsi
Hatendi Simbe
Helen Matondo
Hlumelo Dondashe
Irene Peta
Jabulani Malungane
Jacques Abrahams
Janine Barends
Jose Mvula
Kagiso Maphoso
Kagiso Mathebula
Kagiso Mphuti
Karabo Thebedi
Kezia Fern Samuel
Kjetil Sandivk Havnen
Koketso Sekuru
Lee Branco
Liane Grond
Lida Basson
Londeka Ngidi
Michelle Ecape
Michelle Mthenjwa
Mohau Qumpula
Mpho Maja
Mungo Nete
Musa Zwane
Neliswe Radebe
Nelson Tsabalala
Nkosi Ncube
Nkululeko Jnr
Nomthandazo Shongwe
Nsizwa Vilakazi
Oscar Mlondolozi Hadebe
Phillip Lesingaran
Piet Moloja
Rien ne Dit
Rolivhuwa Matodzi
Rose Wambua
Saloma Aphanye
Sameh Chiboub
Samkelo Somi
Samukelo Radebe
Seetsa Mosoma
Shaun Hart
Shirley Seqobane
Sithembiso Hlatshwayo
Siyabonga Morwasetla
Siyabonga Nokumbi
Steven Marakeng Mpyana
Sunday Mukaza
Tapera Jani
Tendani Yaka
Thulani Nhleko
Tshepiso Maimela
Tshepiso Sekuru
Vhahangwele Matodz
Violet Chibvura
Vusi Mathibela
William B
Yassine Ben Ali
Zanele Jeza
Zianda Ndlovu
Zipho Zwane

Mitta and the kids after hiking in the Suikerbosrand, April 2012

Mitta-Madonna. Rescuing Baby Agnes brought everything into focus for Mitta.
She knows that Children of Fire goes to the ends of the Earth for its children - and this time she was the one travelling that journey from continent to continent.

Mitta updates the ACU Nurses on Agnes' condition

Ellen Lewis, John Sugden, Mitta Lebaka, Megan Smith-Harris & Tristan Takos (Senator Kerry's office)
February 7, 2012

Mitta Lebaka and Junius Hughes - old friends meet again after three years
Parents Lounge, Boston Shriners Hospital February 7, 2012

Mitta Lebaka and Megan Smith-Harris in main floor lobby of Shriners Hospital, Boston
Saying goodbye isn't hard when you know you'll see each other again.

Mitta Lebaka and Megan Smith-Harris
in front of Lobby Mural at Shriners, February 8, 2012

Mitah Lebaka and Ellen Lewis with the swans
Feburary 8, 2012

Mitah & Megan saying goodbye
February 8, 2012

In February 2012, Mitta flew via Kenya, Burundi, Rwanda and drove to Goma in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to rescue Baby Agnes.
They then flew from Rwanda to the Netherlands and on to Boston in the USA where the baby received life-saving surgery.
One of the guardians we appointed to the child is Megan Harris.
Megan is a mother herself and has made a documentary about burns survivors called: Forged by Fire.
Megan is pictured here with Mitta at the Shriners Hospital in Boston.

Mitta Lebaka with Ellen Lewis in Boston, Shriners, USA in February 2012.

Mitta has gone from being a teenage burns survivor in need, to a key negotiator with government departments such as Home Affairs, Social Development, Health, and Education.
She's pictured here in August 2011 with Isaac Masilo Mogope of the Department of Home Affairs.

Mitta with Dikeledi (8) on the swing in May 2011

Mitta and Feleng (9) by the hibiscus bush at Jo'burg School for Blind, Low Vision and Multiple Disability Children, May 2011.

Mitta helping Thapelo (5) with his schoolwork, May 2011


Like many 21-year-olds, Mitta Lebaka loves pretty dresses, enjoys listening to music and wants to change the world! Her ambitions are big, like improving the health care system in this country, and making a difference in the social welfare departments of the government. But unlike most young women of her age, Mitta is scarred down the front of her body, as a result of being badly burned when she was just eight-years-old. Has this deterred her from reaching her dreams?
"Things are never the same after you are burned. People look at you funny and treat you differently. They think because you have scars you are less capable than other people," says Mitta, quietly. Mitta has certainly proved this not to be the case as she is currently working as a Social Worker Manager at Children of Fire charity and at the same time studying towards a degree to become a social worker.
But the road to success has not been easy. Mitta remembers that fateful winter morning eleven years ago when she was trying to warm herself next to the hot plate in the kitchen of her Soweto home. Suddenly, with a 'whoosh' the front of her jersey caught alight, burning her skin from her neck down to her waist. Her mother rushed to help her, rolling her on the ground to put out the flames. Mitta spent three months in hospital and her future was suddenly filled with operations, hospital visits, medicine and bandages.
When Mitta eventually returned to school, she wore a scarf to hide her scars, finding it difficult to deal with the change in her appearance. "I was scared that my friends were going to make fun of me because of the way I looked. My Mum was very understanding, but eventually she said one day, 'You must go to school today without that scarf!' That was hard."
Mitta recalls, "It took a long time for me to accept the 'new' me, and to be able to look at myself in the mirror. I knew that I could never go back to the skin I was born with. I think I grew up quickly, and I had to change the way I thought about myself."
Another life-changing event in Mitta's life was taking part in a climbing expedition for young burn survivors up Mt Kilimanjaro in 2007, organised by the charity Children of Fire, Africa's first burns charity. One of the aims of the expedition was to help boost the confidence of the burn survivors, by showing them that with hard work and determination one can achieve great things, no matter what one looks like. In Mitta's case, it changed her view on life.
Mitta recalls the difficulties of the trip. "It wasn't easy, and every day I thought I can't go on. But I thought I must just put one foot in front of the other, one step at a time. I went at my own pace, and realised it was not a race to get to the top. I was delighted when I reached the summit even though I was the last person to do so! I thought to myself, If I can climb to the top of this mountain, I can do anything!
"The wonderful thing about an experience like that is that I can replay it over and over in my mind, like a video clip, and I can remember the great feeling of achievement when I reached my goal."
Mitta continues, "Living with disfigurement is not easy. People think automatically that you are not able to do things because of the way you look. I get angry with that attitude. But now when I come across stumbling blocks in my life, I think about my climb up Mt Kilimanjaro, and I remember that I can reach my target if I just take one step at a time."
After returning from this adventure and finishing her Matric, Mitta became more involved with Children of Fire, and started to work there on a permanent basis. The charity has been helping children for 15 years, during which time it has assisted more than 350 burn survivors on their road to recovery. It helps not only with the medical needs of burns survivors, but with their emotional, psychological and educational needs as well. It relies totally on donations to keep its doors open (see www.firechildren.org).
Mitta is fully involved with all aspects of the work of the charity. "We take a holistic approach to each case, and we assist not only the child but the whole family as well. I think it is important that the background of the child is investigated, so that one can understand the social problems that the child is facing. I find it frustrating at times working with the Department of Social Development because it takes a long time for solutions to problems to be found. It is difficult trying to improve the lives of children when you are dealing with people who do not seem to care much. One day, when I am Head of Social Development, I will change all that!" Mitta quips with a smile.
Burn survivors need on-going medical care, and there are usually many complications which arise as they grow. For example, in most cases the badly burned skin contracts forming scar tissue that need to be 'released' in order to restore mobility to that region of the body. Mitta has had many contracture release operations over the years, and still needs to have at least one more large operation on her neck. Mitta adds, "I understand the emotional trauma that the children who come to the charity are going through, because I have been through it all myself."
So dedicated is she now to improving the lives of others, she has been trying for a year to foster burns survivor Feleng (9). "I've done all the paperwork, they've done the home visit, but I think I'll be 22 years old and still they won't have moved ahead. Someone needs to pop a rocket under Social Development!"
When looking back on her life so far, Mitta is amazed at the how things have turned out. "I think I have been lucky in that my mother Gloria has always been very supportive and I know that she believes in me, and the people at Children of Fire have helped me a lot. Bronwen the Director is like a second mother and she enabled me to travel to Zimbabwe, Tanzania, putting a foot in Kenya, across South Africa and even to London in the UK. I am surprised at myself sometimes. It took time, but now I am comfortable with the way I am and how the world sees me."
Mitta has had to face many challenges in her life, but has made the best of the opportunities that have come her way. "Life doesn't always go exactly as planned, but my advice to other young people is to reach for your dreams - you can achieve anything by taking one step at a time."

Mitta Lebaka and Marietta both summited Kilimanjaro at end June 2007 and got a certificate to prove it. Marietta Neumann went on to study Health Sciences with the intention to become a doctor in the future. In 2010 she is among the top 15 per cent of students at the University of the Witwatersrand.

Mitta went on to intern at Children of Fire and hopes to study psychology in London in the future.

Mittah had nipple-reconstruction surgery on 18th November 2008 (surgeon Charles Serrurier) and was discharged from Helen Joseph Hospital the next day.

Dr Audrey Gule (38) is overall head of Emergency Services and Disaster Management for Greater Johannesburg. She visited Children of Fire to discuss joint initiatives to improve community safety, in mid October 2008.

book marktell a friendprint page
This material is Copyright The Dorah Mokoena Charitable Trust and/or Children of Fire , 1998-2017.
Distribution or re-transmission of this material, excluding the Schools' Guide, is expressly forbidden without prior permission of the Trust.
For further information, email firechildren@icon.co.za