About Leslie Gama
Leslie Gama is a passionate community worker, driven by the desire to see development in the poor communities of Muldersdrift. From his childhood Leslie was surrounded by landlessness and poverty, which inspired him to start Umnotho.
Leslie, with four other siblings, grew up in the informal settlements of Muldersdrift, raised by a single mother who was employed as a domestic worker and couldn't afford a decent home for the family.
His first home was a mud-house on a farm where his grandparents were employed for 37 years. When his grandparents died the family was evicted because there was no one to work for accommodation, all the children were still young to work.
Leslie's second home was a rented horse-stable, which the family occupied for 7 years. Again the family was evicted when a townhouse development was approved on the land.
The next home was a rented chicken-house where the family lived for 15 years. In all these places there was no running water, no electricity, and the family had to dig its own pit toilet.
With this kind of background and a battle for a place to call home, it is not surprising to see Leslie determination for better housing in Muldersdrift.
Leslie's upbringing also highlights a dedicated young man committed to improve not only his life but that of the people around him. At the age of 11 Leslie started his first job working for a chicken farm where he was paid with a tray of eggs. Even as a child Leslie helped to provide for the family.
After completing matric, with no funds to further his studies, Leslie did not give up but instead focused on helping the community. In 2002 Leslie started an Adult Basic Education & Training (ABET) Center where he taught basic literacy and numeracy. In 2003 the school became part of the ABET programme by UNISA and SANLI.
From then Leslie started to participate in the Mogale City Youth Forums, the ANC Youth League, and other community structures, which shaped his awareness of spatial and socioeconomics injustices.
Committed to improving his community, Leslie enrolled with UNISA for a Bachelor of Arts in Development Studies, majoring in development, economics and sociology. Through those candlelit nights Leslie studied until he completed his degree.
In 2007 Leslie started working for the Gauteng Department of Housing and Local Government as a Community Development Worker. He focused on starting community projects, which include the Mohau Pre-School and Thabang Lephele Oganisation, which feeds orphans and vulnerable children.
In 2009 Leslie founded Umnotho with the desire to focus on community self-help empowerment projects. In 2012 Leslie resigned from government to work closely with communities.
Today Umnotho is a community of more than 2000 families, who managed to raise R20 million on their own, with 32 hectares of land, and a banking license. This is not only a story of a successful community that managed to mobilise its collective efforts, it is also a story of a visionary, a social entrepreneur, and a passionate community worker who walked through poverty, landlessness, and a negative environment that was never meant for him to win... but he kept pushing.