By Nompilo Mncube
GADRA Advice and Community Work director, Roger Domingo, is well known for reaching out a helping hand on matters concerning the development of the Grahamstown community.
In 2004, Domingo relocated to Grahamstown from PE after being offered the position of Projects Coordinator at a child and youth care centre.
He has lived in Grahamstown for 10 years and has worked for NGOs such as St Mary’s Development and Care Centre and The President’s Award.
Domingo had a difficult childhood. He was single-handedly raised by his mother as a middle child. His mother worked as a seamstress, in curtain and linen factories, earning a meagre wage.
“My mother worked miracles but at one stage, when I was in Grade 9 and my brother in Grade 10, things were so bad that she considered having us drop out of school in order to find jobs,” Domingo said.
Every year Domingo’s family would move from one place to the next and at one stage had to live in a single room in someone’s backyard. “Times were tough and I clearly remember us surviving from week to week, not knowing what each week would have in store.”
As a teenager Domingo joined a local youth group which he believes, together with his home circumstances, shaped him into the active citizen he is today.
“It was during this time, through wonderful people that came into my life, that my passion for youth development was born and indeed my desire to contribute towards positive change in society,” explained Domingo.
Domingo has had many great moments in his activeness in the community. “I have seen many young people, against all odds, achieve so much and break the cycle of poverty in their households. I have seen people with disabilities, after being marginalised for most of their lives, become both socially and economically integrated into society,” said Domingo.
One of his greatest moments included the Human Chain which took place earlier this year in February. Domingo was project manager in the event which saw about 4000 Grahamstonians from all walks of life come together to bridge historical divides in honour of Nelson Mandela’s legacy. “I have seen what pride and dignity comes with people being involved in their own development – reclaiming power – to influence the course of events around them.”
Domingo will be ending his active citizenship in Grahamstown at the end of this year. He will be relocating to George, in the Western Cape, where he has been offered an opportunity as an executive director focusing on agrarian transformation in the Southern and Eastern Capes.
Roger Domingo: in his own words
1. What has kept you busy over the past few years?
In the 10 years that I have been in Grahamstown I have had the opportunity to work for three well-established NGOs: St Mary’s Development & Care Centre, The President’s Award, and GADRA Advice and Community Work. I have been involved in both my professional and personal capacity in community development and it has been extremely rewarding.
2. What motivated you to get involved in community issues?
My own personal background, as well as witnessing and experiencing the many, many injustices in our society.
3. How do you think others can get involved?
I believe that many people want to get involved in positively shaping our society, but few are prepared to step outside of their comfort zones to do so. I was recently inspired by the words of Jillian Reilly at the 2014 Trialogue CSI Conference: “We can be brave in two ways: innovation, whereby we challenge thinking, and activism, whereby we challenge power”.
4. How would you describe an active citizen?
Someone who is concerned about the state of society and finds a way to contribute, within his/her own abilities, towards positive transformation.
5. How would you describe yourself in one word?
6. Who/what inspires you?
I am inspired by selfless people.
7. What’s your keep-awake issue in respect of public life in Makana?
Am I making a positive contribution? What more can I do personally and professionally?
8. Best decision you’ve made relating to this issue?
To just keep doing and giving of myself. I find it very fulfilling to be part of potential solutions as opposed to just highlighting the obvious challenges.
9. What’s the one thing about you few people know?
As a teenager I was involved with both gangs and drugs in Port Elizabeth.