A woman on a mission, to develop a culture of sharing individual stories and creating a safe space for those who suffer from depression, Neo Selebano is changing her community for the better.
Neo Selebano is all about giving back to the community. She is well known around Soweto for running many different charity initiatives to help those in the community. Under her EmaLenna non-profit organisation, Selebano has assisted young girls with sanitary towels. She has also mobilised the community to help with food parcels to donate to people affected by the coronavirus lockdown.
Opening the EmaLenna Foundation is something Selebano counts as one of her proudest moments. The foundation operates primarily as a depression awareness non-profit organisation.
Selabano created the organisation after she realised the level of stigma associated with depression in black communities. She says being a depression survivor herself motivated her to become an activist.
“The aim of my foundation is to destigmatise depression in underprivileged communities by starting counselling sessions,” she says.
Selebano wants to introduce a culture of sharing individual stories by creating a safe space for those who suffer from depression. More than that, she wants to inspire individuals to speak up and not succumb to depression on their own.
To bring people together, she hosts depression awareness picnics every October. Selebano says that, when she hosted her first picnic in Soweto, she was surprised by the turnout. “The turnout was so good and about 500 people pitched.”
It is her past that drives Selebano to excel. Her campaigns are based on her own pain and suffering. Using that pain, Selebano hopes to find others who are suffering and help them. She wants to be an instrument of healing for people who are currently suffering from depression or are survivors of depression.
“Knowing that I’m someone’s answer to a prayer is enough,” she says. That’s why the advice she would give to her younger self is:
“Be strong. One day, those scars in your emotions will be your stars.”
But Selebano does not only help people in the community with depression. Using her foundation, she runs many different programmes. One of these is a feeding scheme. Through the programme, Selebano and her team provide food and sustenance to those who are destitute. She says they want to become a safe place where those with empty stomachs can come to get a meal to keep them going and get hope to survive the day.
Even as the world is struggling with Covid-19, Selebano has been working on other ways to help those in her community. She and her organisation noticed that many people had lost their incomes during the lockdown. The foundation, under Selebano’s leadership, started a bread campaign that hands out bread to the community every day.
“We are currently feeding about 350 kids at least one decent meal per day from Wednesday to Saturday,” she says about another feeding programme. Through her foundation, Selebano has also started a daily feeding scheme and a project to feed families. Another project Selebano works on is the “adopt a girl” project. She is passionate about empowering the young people in her community.
To help people around her, Selebano says she uses the actual issues facing the communities to start programmes that directly help those who need it most.