Luhan Maartens seemed destined for a life of struggle and turmoil – and is proving that you can determine your own destiny.
There’s good reason why we’re advised to never judge a book by its cover. Luhan Maartens personifies that reason. For one thing, his slight frame belies his athleticism. “I’m on the skinny side, so I don’t look like an athlete,” he acknowledges.
Then there’s his quiet smile and reserved demeanor, which hides a steely resolve – and give no hint of the journey his life has undertaken. “I’m a private person, and also quite shy,” Luhan admits. “Around people, I don’t talk much – I listen.”
His story doesn’t make for idle chatter, but it’s one he recounts easily enough, in the hope that it inspires others with similar experiences to effect the same turnaround as he did.
Born and bred in Bloemfontein, Luhan’s childhood was framed by his parents’ divorce, followed by constantly having to moving house. “We moved in with my grandmother when my parents divorced, and over the years we’d move in an out of my grandmother’s house as my mother got a few boyfriends, then got married and divorced,” he recollects.
Walking the distance
Luhan has an older sister, and a younger brother who was bedridden from birth and died in 2016. His father remarried and had four children with his new wife. Despite moving all over city and staying in three different places while in high school, Luhan managed to remain at Jim Fouche High. At one stage, he lived 6km away, and had to walk the distance back and forth daily.
The upheaval had a huge impact on the young boy, who found solace in sports. “My sports definitely saved me; if it wasn’t for my sport I don’t know where I would have been,” says Luhan, who counts his debut for the school’s first team cricket as a highlight. “I was the secondary spinner and had a hand injury. I was drafted in and took a fiver,” he recalls proudly.
In his teens, Luhan’s relationship with his mother disintegrated to the point where he was bordering on delinquency. “My confidence level was low, and bad things started to happen. I started smoking and was almost at the point of taking my life. Then I realised that I was messing up my future – and it finally motivated me to be the best person I can be.”
The turning point came on the night he chose to accept an invitation to church instead of attending his mother’s wedding. “I won’t regret it. It taught me how to let go of the past… to forgive, and let the hurt go. It helped me regain self-confidence; I found the support system I needed,” he says.
Fortunately, Luhan was never fully without support. “My grandmother has always been there for me, whenever I need something; now, during varsity holidays when I can’t stay in res, I can always count on her. But she has experienced a lot of pain over past years; two years she lost her husband and my brother.”
Luhan had also made an impression at school, where he excelled academically. His language teacher encouraged him to apply to the Moshal Scholarship Progam, and helped him fill in the required forms – setting Luhan firmly on the path to a future he’d only dreamed about.
“Being accepted into the Program was one of the happiest days of my life, knowing I can look ahead and stop looking behind,” Luhan recalls. “There was no way I could get into university without the scholarship; I would have had to get a job and live the struggle life. I want to get out of this; I want to live a different, better life. I don’t want to be stuck in the life my family has been living. Receiving the scholarship taught me that my dreams can come true, and through that I can try to make other people’s dreams come true as well.”
Luhan’s dream is to complete his degree in Building Sciences and major in project management. “My dream job is to be the construction manager in charge of building a new skyscraper,” he enthuses. His passion for building and construction almost went unrealised, though. He enrolled at university to study accounting, but found the transition from school to the tertiary environment tougher than expected. “It was quite hard; I failed my first few tests mostly because at school, I had never learnt to study. I just paid attention and got high marks. So at university, I had to learn how to learn,” Luhan explains.
When he found himself lacking motivation, Luhan approached Moshal. After completing a few tests, it became clear that the young fitness fanatic would thrive on a more practical course. Making the change from accounting to Building Sciences has renewed Luhan’s enthusiasm for his studies.
Sport and church, he says, keeps him balanced. “I’m a sports fanatic. This semester, I played cricket, hockey, rugby, and soccer for my res – and I play squash and tennis, socially. Fitness helps a lot to keep me going.” A regular churchgoer, Luhan is motivated to set an example to others on how to change their lives for the good. This notable young man is, after all, living proof that one’s destiny is not carved in stone.