There is something about a young person with purpose that makes people take note. It’s to do with the crossroads they stand at. Young people are full of potential, and time still lies ahead of them. They have hours to invest in their passions, and might yet create something great.
Liam Coetzee, the newest member of the GP/OKCID team, is the type of young man who embodies this well. At only 20 years of age, he has already identified his greatest passion as helping people. He recently joined our team as a field worker this past month.
Liam follows in the footsteps of his mother, Nathalie, who has served for years as a Seapoint CID field worker. Liam explained that both of his parents shaped the way he saw the world. He was inspired by both Nathalie and his father, a teacher with a love for disadvantaged children. They demonstrated how enriching it was to give to others, “I remember at Christmas time my Mom would make large pots of food and take it to people in need. Giving back made her so happy.”
At school he was introverted and sometimes struggled amongst stronger personalities. It was here that he developed early empathy and understanding. “I realised that the people who were loud and bullies were actually those with a difficult home situation, those that needed to be loved most,” he shares. “Now when I deal with people I like to put myself in their position.” This has put him in good stead for his new role, which can involve challenging interactions with different characters.
It is up to Liam to build relationships with the homeless and destitute in our area, identify their needs to then guide them in the right direction. This includes helping people get into shelters, and access services to help. He also assists with ID documents, paperwork and transport costs should they be from a different country and wish to return home. It is his job to work with the security teams and connect with the marginalised in the city.
As mentioned in a previous blog post there are over 7000 homeless people in Cape Town, so there is rarely a lull in activity! Liam’s assistance is often required at events over the weekend, when the homeless community may be respectfully asked to cooperate and accommodate crowds to create space for visitors and attendees.
He admits that the hours are sometimes difficult, but assures us that it is worth it! He is enjoying settling into his new role, which gets easier with experience. “I found it difficult to know how to approach homeless people at first,” he says, adding “but now I am so much more comfortable just talking and listening to them.”
Liam’s goal is to become an established social worker in Cape Town. He is adamant that he doesn’t want to be anywhere else, saying, “My heart is with the city and its people.” He is especially passionate about giving hope to children. He aspires to be a role model for orphaned children and show them their worth through providing care.
He encourages young people, especially young men, to take a stand and do what needs to be done. “Don’t worry about what people say – it’s a job that’s bigger than you. Bigger than anyone, it’s about giving back in a way you never thought you could.”