Youth leader deflated but not defeated

Harvest Youth Project coach, Peter Michaels and his uncle, Samuel da Silva on the site where his house burned down two weeks ago.

Multiple SA karate champion, Peter Michaels, 27, from Hangberg, has always been a fighter. 

Growing up under difficult circumstances meant he had very little choice.

Through sport, an interest in arts and entertainment and a passion for working with the youth, he has overcome many of life’s difficulties.

Now he’s fighting to rebuild his home lost in a fire two weeks ago. But unlike most of the battles he has had to face on his own, this time round he received help from unexpected quarters, kind strangers, and community members and even from friends across the ocean. This time round, he won’t have to fight alone.

After a frantic call from his uncle two weeks ago, Mr Michaels rushed back from the airport where he was dropping off a friend and finally arrived back home in a panic, only to find his house burnt to the ground.

A pile of debris and a few items saved from the fire was all that remained of what used to be his home.

The fire was started by a candle that had fallen over but luckily no one was hurt, said Mr Michaels, a multiple SA kung fu champion and currently ranked sixth in the world.

“It was a house that I built for my family because my mom used to move around a lot and my siblings were all over in institutions. When I got back, I was broken, my heart was pounding. I didn’t know where to next,” he said.

“I was born and bred in Hangberg, in a place called the Zone.There were nine people living in a two-bedroom flat the City gave to my grandmother. At the age of 18, I went to apply for a legal house for the family because I needed to also go out and move. So, I became a backyard dweller and started saving money to build a house,” he said.

Between his work at The Harvest Youth Project, which is based at Hout Bay Harbour, working on various projects and preparing for the upcoming national kung fu championships, the last thing he expected to focus on this year, was building a house. He has also qualified for the All Africa championships, in Egypt, and the world championships in Tokyo, late this year.

Despite his recent misfortune, Mr Michaels remains positive, saying that every setback is an opportunity to start again. And, thankfully, many came to his aid to get things back on track.

When Sentinel visited at the weekend, we found Mr Michaels, all dressed in white, looking like he was ready to step on stage instead of mixing concrete to lay the foundation for his new home on the site where the old one stood. This was totally understandable, as he had been performing at the Mandela Day celebrations at the harbour under his rap moniker, Spike P, a short while earlier.

He’s the first one to admit he’s more comfortable with a microphone in hand than a shovel, which is why, he says, he’ll leave digging trenches to his uncle, Samuel da Silva, who knows more about construction than he does.

“I am grateful to everyone who came on board and helped,” he said. If you’d like to assist Mr Michaels, call 078 710 1499 or visit www.backabuddy.co.za/petermichaels