Bonolo does not look away from a challenge

Bonolo visited Philani Twala in hospital after his first eye operation.

The story of 13-year-old Parklands College pupil, who helped to raise funds for a teenager who needed a corneal transplant, is one worth telling, as the country celebrates the vim and vigour of its youth this month.

Philani Twala, 17, developed an eye condition called Keratoconus – a slow, degenerative eye disease in which the normally round, dome-shaped cornea thins and begins to bulge into a cone-like shape, stopping light from entering the eye.

To the rescue came Grade 8 pupil Bonolo Molemohi, who moved from Johannesburg to Cape Town at the start of this year.

Bonolo, 12 at the time, heard about Philani’s ordeal last year from their neighbour who employs his mother, a single parent from Katlehong who could not afford to pay for the transplant on her domestic worker salary.

“The neighbour said he needed donations for a corneal transplant, but I thought donations wouldn’t help. What if it took too long to get donations. I thought a fundraiser would be better, and I had a carnival coming up at my school, Holy Rosary in Johannesburg, so I decided to have a raffle,” said Bonolo.

She approached her aunt, who worked for a beverages company, for donations of premium wines, and her mom, who worked for a large department store, for duvets, blankets, clothes and toys.

The prizes were valued at R7 000. She also printed posters with the headline “Don’t look away”. The posters urged people to buy a raffle ticket for R20 to support her drive for the eye operation.

While others were enjoying the carnival, Bonolo, together with a few friends, walked around with a box asking people to donate to her cause.

“I raised R8 000 that day. I was proud. I didn’t know I would raise that much,” she said.

She said the neighbours had managed to raise R10 000 over a period of time and, together with the funds she had brought in, they were able to buy a cornea from the state for R18 000.

Philani was able to undergo his first transplant last year with the help of Dr Akiel Asvat, an ophthalmologist from Johannesburg who performed the procedure on a pro-bono basis at St John’s Eye hospital in Soweto. When the first operation was completed successfully, Bonolo approached a media company for help. A well known movie chain owned by the company decided to help Philani by covering the costs for his second transplant earlier this year.

“When I first met him, he was sad and depressed and he didn’t speak a lot. Now he is happy,” said Bonolo.

Bonolo was nominated as a Lead SA hero for her random act of kindness. The initiative celebrates youth making a difference in the country.

She received the Gauteng Youth Hero of October 2015 certificate, which hangs proudly in the living room of the Molemohi household.

When asked why she would go out of her way to help a total stranger Bonolo smiles and says her Christian upbringing has taught her so.

“I have been taught to be kind. My family morals and the Christian primary school I attended taught me to be good to others.”

Bonolo’s father Moeketsi said his daughter has always been a generous person.

“I hope she continues being the person that she is and we will continue to support her throughout her initiatives,” said Mr Molemohi.