At a time when tragedy and violence are threatening to rupture Imizamo Yethu, a youth development programme is providing much-needed stability for youngsters between the ages of 13 and 25.
Sakhisizwe Youth was born out of the well-known Ikhaya le Themba after-school care programme, but is geared towards older children.
Now a completely separate entity, it empowers young people through the provision of leadership and literacy and skills as well as sport and spirituality programmes.
The seeds of the project were planted as early as 2012, when Sakhisizwe director Mhinti Pato, then with Ikhaya le Themba, recognised that older children needed a “safe space” to hone their talents and improve themselves academically and physically.
She began to hold a number of activities based on the Ikhaya le Themba model, but not all of
these appealed to high school pupils.
“For about two years we were not engaged with youth of this age group, and during this time there was an increase in gangsterism in IY. Then, in 2014, the Vineyard Church did an outreach programme and we discovered our older children wanted to come back to us. They told us that with all that was going on, they still needed a safe space to come to,” Ms Pato said.
It was then decided to establish a series of Friday night programmes, where the youngsters could work on their computer literacy, play soccer and netball or participate in running activities.
In the past three years, the programme has extended to weekdays as well. Mondays are devoted to literacy, with pupils introduced to books that are relevant to their lifestyles, tackling subjects such as teenage pregnancy and township “sugar daddys”.
Other days of the week involve maths literacy and swimming lessons.
Currently, Sakhisizwe hosts 30 students during the week, and 60 on Friday nights. An essential component is the development of mentors; students who have gone through the same experiences as most Imizamo Yethu youth and are able to advise them on how best to manage these events.
“At the moment we have five participants in university and two youth working full-time. We have three who are taking a gap year, and they are acting as mentors. The mentors are given a stipend for working with the students, and we are always looking for new mentors,” Ms Pato said.
Hikes, trail walks and scripture camps are an integral part of the curriculum, and Sakhisizwe is always looking to partner with new organisations to offer youth alternative activities.
“Our aim is to register as a trust which will enable us to run operations smoothly. Currently we are running a campaign on Thundafund (https://www.thundafund.com/project/sakhisizwe) to raise funds for this purpose. Hout Bay is very blessed to have a diversity of programmes for the youth, and we would love to collaborate with them all to improve the lives of our young people.”
Ms Pato can be contacted on 082 358 2932.