Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Changing youth in South Africa - Change in Progress 2016 youth camp

A group of 17 young people were led on a journey by three mentors (including one from Initiatives of Change, Zimbabwe) and three IofC team members at a campsite in the beautiful Heidelberg, Gauteng Province of South Africa from 5 - 10 December.

This camp site named Camp Zenith was the location for the first five days of the intense programme. The following three days were spent with the young participants putting their skills into practice in their communities of Soweto and Noordgesig. The programme ended with an inspiring and joyful graduation on 15 December.

The aims of the fourth annual Change in Progress (CiP) camp were to:

  • equip young people with practical and inner skills to lead a moral and visionary-based lifestyle

  • to begin a journey of healing and self-discovery, starting with change within oneself and to create a connected group of empowered young people serving their community

Workshop themes included Family, Heritage and One's Value (‘Who am I’). Mentors and guest speakers facilitated sessions on Leadership and Entrepreneurship. The guest facilitators who were Thapelo Lekwakwe a motivational speaker, founder of Changing perspective Organisation, holds BA degree in Industrial Psychology from Wits, Post-Graduate Diploma in Management majority in Business Administration from Wits Business School and a Diploma in Ministry from CFC International Bible College. He is also an associate residential Pastor at the Church of Jesus Christ Naledwell as Isaac Mavuso the director of Tisetso training, an author and project manager is a dedicated Small business and personal development facilitator .Events MC and life coach with over five years’ experience helping individuals, SMME, municipalities and organisations to increase their productivity in the field of business. Mr Mavuso works as a consultant to empower people and organisations, through workshop and or one on one session. He is a practical strategist and analytical problem solver. He has a radio show on Kasi FM delivering 10  elements to run a successful Kasi business. There was also story-sharing, a hill walk in nature to deepen relationships, morning reflection sessions, time for recreation and creative arts and IofC's award winning film 'Beyond Forgiving'.

The participants told their troubled stories of broken homes, drug and alcohol issues, and worse. There is so much potential among the group, yet their youthful, optimistic spirits were dampened by community and family challenges. The camp was a safe place to be listened to and for their voices to be heard which was a first for many.

Several took their first steps along the journey of healing during an evening on the topic of forgiveness when each wrote a letter forgiving or asking someone for forgiveness. The next evening they painted what was blocking them in their life. After each person had showed their painting and told the story relating to this obstacle, the group gathered around a fire and threw their pictures into the fire saying what they were throwing away; ‘anger’, ‘hatred’ and, ‘fear’. Dancing and singing followed in celebration of the symbolic and emotional release.

There were many highlights of the experience, including the friendships formed and the individual growth seen in the youth. For example, in the beginning one participant had low self esteem and was not able to speak in front of the group. Each day the team saw a change as he began to share a little more and on the final day, with self-assurance, he gave a motivating speech to his peers! It was a delightful moment for all.

Outreach in the communities was in partnership with two non governmental organisations - 'Adopt a Grandmother', which saw an inter-generational exchange on topics the youth chose between them and the elders,and the 'Nanga Vhutshilo' which supports HIV positive children. On both days, the young people planned, coordinated and facilitated the sessions putting to use the skills and confidence they acquired at the camp.

The intense, deep and powerful 10-day experience ended with a graduation ceremony in Soweto. Proud parents, beaming participants and the team were joined by two distinguished South African elders and changemakers – Dr Lillian Cingo, a South Arican Icon and founder and retired manager of the Phelophepa Health Train and Letlapa Mphahlele, former commander of the Pan Africanist Congress military wing, APLA.

Drawing from her own experiences Dr Lillian spoke of the importance of vision, determination and passion for your future. “I knew God had a plan for me. I went from walking miles to school to years later being awarded by the Queen of England for being a top neurosurgeon! So never give up.”

Letlapa spoke of pain and how many have to contend with pain everyday. Whether it is a good or bad thing, that depends on you, he said. We learn much more from pain than we learn from pleasure, he continued. He said that 'opportunitynowhere' can be read two ways: 'opportunity no where' or 'opportunity now here'. It is all about attitude. IofC offers a rare platform in the world that gives the opportunity for people to transmit their pain, he said..

Some of the participant's comments at the end of the time were:

* “I received more than I expected – I have learned to accept my sorrows and forgive, and I discovered much about myself.”

* “I learned to connect with myself, to be patient and that I am unique and special.”

* “I am changing the way I have been thinking - I learned to let go of hatred and anger.”

* “I am going to change my life path to be more serious and not to repeat my mistakes. I want to stay positive and never give up on my dreams.”

* “I want to help others more now, and have more time talking with family.”

As the youth were awarded their certificates for completing the camp, mothers gave speeches of gratitude whilst explaining the transformation they had seen in their children. One said, “I have seen a big change in my son, from the first day he returned. I hope he can stay with this organisation (IofC) and continue with his changes.”

Many lives were touched by the CiP programme, not just the direct beneficiaries but also their parents, the community and mentors, who gained valuable experience. (A follow-up Creators of Peace circle is being prepared for some of the parents) and on the last day of the camp, the participants put together an action plan which included giving back to the community (collecting clothes for deprived families, visiting elders and fundraising for an orphanage) and promoting CiP to other young people. An inspired and committed network of youth that aspire to make a positive change to their behaviours, relationships and communities now exists.

IofC would like to give thanks to all who were involved in making this camp a success; particularly the Irene Prestwich Trust and Edmee Botteron because without their support the mentors and volunteers would not have been able to join the experience We would also like to thank Mama Lillian, Letlapa Mphahlele, Thapelo Lekwakwe, Isaac Mavuso, Mosia Family, Wisani Baloyi, Barbara Down, Nanga Vhutshilo, Adopt a gogo and of course the IofC South Africa team.

Report by Cleo Mohlaodi, Portia Mosia and Talia Smith