‘You’re welcome, brother, you’re welcome ...’
Noël Milner grew up in the gang infested Cape Flats, which were riddled with drug lords and the lure of their lifestyle. Going to Girls & Boys Town at the age of 15 changed his life. One of the problems of growing up around gangsters is that they become your role models.
Mentor and friend
The fact that Mario’s two older brothers had been at Boys Town previously did not make any difference to how Mario was treated. ‘It wasn’t such a good thing, as Joe always reminded me how good my brothers were!’ recalls Mario.
After Mario had left Boys Town, he kept up contact. ‘Nothing was ever too much trouble for Joe. I could always chat to him when I was experiencing difficulties,’ adds Mario.
As time went by and both men grew older, their relationship evolved. ‘I was guided by Joe when in doubt, which enabled me to complete six successful terms as chairman of the Old Boys’ Association,’says Mario.
Of course, there were also lighthearted moments. Mario vividly remembers one occasion when the old boys all met at Munster, on the South Coast, for the AGM.
This particular year saw Mario and Joe making a toast or two (or three) to Boys Town – much to the disgust of Father O.
‘That weekend was not a good one for us. Father O didn’t speak to either of us the whole of Sunday.’
This did little to dampen the great love that Mario has for Boys Town – and he’s proud of Joe ‘for all the good he has done over the years’.
‘He has been an excellent example to many. I wish Joe and his family all the best for the future – and thank him from the bottom of my heart for his dedication to and passion for Boys Town.’
boys have their
According to Vincent Luizinho (pictured alongside), his time with us laid the foundation for his future. In his own words, he shares his experiences:
‘My years at Boys Town – between 1980 and 1982 – proved to be some of the most challenging, rewarding and enjoyable years of my teenage life. After the initial settling-in process, I steadily began my transition from a rebellious teenager to a responsible and courteous young man.
I was given much support from both Father Sham and the late Father Orsmond. They believed there is no such thing as bad boys, just naughty boys who need to be given responsibility in order to become responsible young men.
I steadily worked my way up the ‘responsibility ladder’ until I became Councillor in Standard 9 and Mayor in my Matric year. The trust shown in me and the responsibilities given to me by my fellow learners and teachers, stood me in good stead for my career with Pick ’n Pay.
After many interviews for a Trainee Manager’s position within Pick ’n Pay, Sean Summers (now CEO of Pick ’n Pay) eventually employed me in 1985.
It was a very exciting time for me as Pick ’n Pay was at that stage opening hypermarkets throughout the country. With the care and guidance shown to me by Peter Dodson, who was then a buyer within the Pick ’n Pay group, I steadily climbed another ‘responsibility ladder’ and achieved Senior Manager status.
I married in 1992 after meeting my wife, Stella, at work and we then moved to Cape Town to further our careers within Pick ’n Pay. I resigned from the corporate group in 1995 and in the same year, Paul Robins and I opened our own Pick ’n Pay Family Store in Plumstead, Cape Town.
I believe that the guidance given to me at both Boys Town and Pick ’n Pay helped me succeed in my own business. I have tried to instil the values I learned at Boys Town in all my dealings with people at work and in my personal life. Stella and I have been blessed with two wonderful children, aged five and two.
Finally, I need to add that I was also mentored by a very special man by the name of Joe Araujo, who is now Executive Director of Girls & Boys Town. He played a pivotal role in my childhood years, as well as my latter years, as he arranged for me to join Boys Town and later set up my first interview at Pick ’n Pay.
The best years of my life
It may surprise you to hear our ‘Old Boys’ describe their time with us as the best years of their lives. In his own words, Malcolm Govender shares his memories ...
The abundance of love and caring I received amazes me to this day. I knew about ‘diversity’ and ‘power struggles’ even before I started working, because of Boys Town. It's the training ground for future leaders.
The way in which they deal with boys arises from one simple statement: No boy is bad. Love was shown to me even though I had done many bad deeds. The love eventually melts your heart and you cannot continue in your anti-social ways because someone understands and cares.
I was given a structured environment that left little time for being idle. This was beneficial to me in achieving my goals. The issues that I had, always destroyed whatever progress I made – but with help from my social worker, I was able to identify what was happening and fill my needs appropriately. I learned to accept that my needs were not the only thing in the world and I should be less selfish.
Today, I see so many teenagers have the same problem, but they don’t have specialists in child care to help them. This makes me sad because I know that Boys Town can only do so much. When I saw that Boys Town had started a programme to help parents, it showed me that Boys Town had once again seen a need and offered a helping hand.
We worked on a Peer Group System, so it was our responsibility to make sure that chores got done and we decided on the amount of pocket money we would receive. We had meetings to discuss ways to help certain boys; then we would partner these boys with strong leaders who would pass on their skills. We learnt responsibility and we learnt to be strategic – skills I still use on a daily basis.
Boys Town also created an environment for different boys from different backgrounds to all share a sense of belonging and pride. We connected with each other because of this and we were united. Boys Town was the best two years of my life and I will always cherish the memories.