We wouldn’t be able to reach all the youth we do without our donors and sponsors! We would like to thank:

Umtshezi Municipality – 2 computers

More Magic Computers in Estcourt –computer software

Crystal Trading Store in Weenen – table and 10 chairs

Macksons Food Zone- volley ball and net

Brian Kelly – $3,500

Slifka Center Tzedek Fellowship- $1,750

Forty youth attended the first day of Life Skills Training in Ezitendeni Hall on Tuesday, May 28. Most of the youth are from the area, while 10 of the youth are from Thembalihle, a rural area in Weenen about 15km from Ezitendeni. The youth were eager to learn about vision and goal setting and to hear more about the program. The training will last 6-7 weeks with life skills sessions on Tuesdays and Thursdays in the mornings. On Wednesdays the youth are encouraged to visit the centre for fun sports and games activities in the afternoon to help them get to know each other better in a more relaxed setting. The training has just completed the 2nd week and there are still 30 youth in the training. Worldview, healing of the past, listening and communication, volunteerism and leadership were all covered in these two weeks. The youth played netball and soccer on Wednesday! The facilitators and other Simunye youth members have done an excellent job facilitating the sessions and making the training fun and empowering for everyone involved!

The principal of Ferdinand Primary school, a school in the Weenen area, invited the Stars of Tomorrow peer educators to perform at their AIDS education event on Monday May 28. The youth happily attended the event with most of them walking more than 40 minutes to reach the school! The youth performed a similar drama to the one they did at their membership event two weeks earlier. This was a wonderful opportunity for the youth to share their knowledge and skills with younger youth in their community about a very important topic that affects all of their lives. People in the Weenen community were talking about the dramas all day and the principal was very impressed. Way to go Stars!

21 new members joined Simunye after they spent six weeks volunteering in the community! The youth volunteered their time with the Stars of Tomorrow at Siyanakekela Community Care Centre, a nearby NPO in Ezitendeni. The peer educators administered surveys and health talks about sugar daddies, HIV and pregnancy reaching over 700 community members in only 6 weeks! In the spirit of celebrating their new membership to Simunye, the youth planned and organized a braii and drama night for all members on May 17. The drama was written, practiced and performed by the youth themselves and was about a girl who is rapped by her father and subsequently struggles in school. Later the father is caught by some neighbors and then is arrested by the police when the mother reports the crime. The youth did an excellent job portraying all too real events of what happens in their community. The drama was followed by singing and a delicious braii!

 

May was an exciting month here at Simunye! Co-founder David Carel returned to KwaZulu Natal, South Africa for his third summer to work with the youth in the Weenen-Msinga area. This time, his focus was with the Weenen youth at Simunye, preparing them to lead the next life skill training scheduled for the end of the month. Carel brought a friend this time, Max Gering, who recently graduated high school from Carel’s alma mater.  Gering spent his time training the youth in computer skills for two weeks thanks to two old computers donated from the Umtshezi Municipality. The youth were taught introduction to the computer, Microsoft Word and typing skills. For many of the youth, this was their first time touching a computer. The youth were extremely happy to finally learn their way around a computer! Thank you, Max!

Carel and Peace Corps Volunteer Ryan Ruggiero worked hard to revise and improve the life skills manual and to implement the facilitators training for youth who would facilitate the next life skills training. On May 10th 10 of Simunye’s youth from Weenen and two from Tugela Ferry arrived at the Sam-Lyn Education Centre in Weenen, at the home of Les and Hazel Stanley. The training lasted two days and covered facilitation techniques, facilitation challenges and possible solutions as well as communication and leadership which were led by teachers Hazel and Les Stanley. The youth also learned different ice breakers and team building activities which will help them when they train the new youth. The youth had a wonderful time and learned what it takes to be a successful facilitator!

After seven days, countless hours and much hard work, our centre is now renovated and open for business! Thanks to a small grant from the Slifka Center Tzedek Fellowship at Yale University, we were able fix up the two rooms we recently leased from the gogo in our village. The agreement stated that if we renovated the two rooms then we could lease them for two years without rent. The hardware shop in town said they would make a plan to find a way to have everything fit within our budget so it was time to start renovations.

This was a great opportunity for the youth to use some of their skills and a chance for them to gain new skills. We decided to hire one builder for a few days who would oversee the project, show the youth what needed to be done and teach them anything they did not know. It worked perfectly! The first day about seven youth came and jumped right in fixing holes in the roof, cutting brick to put in a door and cementing the floor. I was thoroughly impressed. The youth continued to work the remained of the time and the girls also assisted with painting the inside and outside of the building and fixing and polishing the floor.

 

After seven days of hard work we successfully fixed and painted the ceiling and the floors, put in a new window, painted the inside and outside of the building, put in two new doors and burglar guards and put electricity in the room. It was so incredible to see the youth use their skills to improve their youth centre. Siphosakhe was wonderful at putting in the ceiling and sorting out electricity. Xolani and Tsepo were great with cutting open the brick to give us a new wall. Bongiwe is a master painter. And the list goes on. Also, Sthembiso, did a great job of being their each day making sure everything was taken care of. I really could not have been prouder of them. And the builder took the time to explain to the youth who did not know how to mix the cement, how to measure the boards for the ceiling and so on. Talk about skills transfer!

After we finished the renovations we had an unofficial opening braii on Saturday. It was a great opportunity for the youth to get together to celebrate all their hard work and the start of something special. All week community members were stopping by to check out what we were doing and wanted to learn more. It was great being able to tell them about our project and we even got some youth to sign up for our next life skills training in May. Saturday morning I had to go to town to pick up the food for the braii and I stopped by the centre with my sister to show her what we had done. As I was approaching the centre, two men walked in the back of the building where the electricity box is and said, “Zanele, I need to speak with you.” I immediately got very nervous as we haven’t exactly sorted out how electricity will be shared and thought about just leaving. Anxiously, I approached him and asked what he wanted. He said, “Zanele, I used to have a shop in this room years ago but we closed because people stole from us and it was not a nice place. Now you are changing things and we can all see it. I’m thinking about opening up my shop again. Thank you, Zanele.”

 

Simunye Youth Development Project is finally a registered Non Profit Organization in South Africa and is off the ground. We received word that our organization was approved via email and we recently received our NPO certificate. This means we are a legitimate, recognized organization in SA and can finally start applying for funding to the Department of Social Development and National Development Agency among other organizations. It is so exciting!

 

We also just finished our first three week life skills training with 31 new out-of-school, unemployed youth in my village. The old youth were tasked with recruiting youth for the training and a few days before the training began we had a wonderful turn out at the information session with about 45 youth in attendance. We explained the program, training and our goals and encouraged everyone to attend the training. This was the first time we were doing the life skills training so we had no idea if people would pitch or be interested. When things are new people are usually sceptical about it and wait until they know what it’s all about.

 

We had about 38 youth attend the first day of the training on February 6th, which unfortunately, was outside because someone took the hall key and never returned it. We started two hours late and it was hot and hectic and the second day we were down to 31 youth. I explained very clearly to the youth that they were only allowed to miss two days if they wanted to continue with the training and the program. Those who missed more than two days were not able to continue. The training is about 13 days and if they miss more than two days, it really takes away from the overall message of the training.

 

We’re also trying to teach the youth good work habits and being hard on them is part of it. After the first week of the training I had about three people come up to me asking to join, saying they would catch up on what they missed, but I had to say no. It was hard, but I had to stick to my word. I explained that we would have additional life skills training throughout the year with the next one being in May and they were more than welcome to sign up for that training. I’ve had a number of additional youth ask me to join over the past few weeks, which is really exciting.

 

The trainers for the training were some of the old Stars of Tomorrow peer educators. I did not have enough time to train the properly and I think there is definitely room for improvement from that side. However, most of them did a great job and really prepared and did their best for their sessions which made me really proud of them. The topics we covered in the three weeks include communication, leadership, worldview and goal setting, volunteerism, healing of the past, relationships, personal development, emotional maturity, budgeting and saving, power of credit, entrepreneurship, job preparation, CV and interview skills, HIV transmission and prevention, peer education, abuse and gender roles, teenage pregnancy and healthy living. At the end of each day, the youth filled out evaluations and they also filled out final evaluations.

 

In the end, 31 youth finished the three week training and did not miss more than two days, with some not missing any days or only one. Their final evaluations said it all when many of them said they learned new life skills they will take with them long after the training, they now recognize the importance of volunteering, they now feel more prepared to get a job, they now understand everyone is unique and they are special, they know more about HIV and know they have the right to say “no.”

 

The last day we gave out certificates and had a small braii (BBQ). The youth are now required to volunteer for six weeks either with the Stars of Tomorrow peer educators distributing surveys about sugar daddies and educating the community or they must find their own volunteer opportunity. Those who complete the six weeks of volunteering will receive business and computer training provided by Simunye and out partnership with SEDA (Small Enterprise Development Agency). This is all very exciting and we cannot wait to see where it goes from here!

 

After five months of negotiations we finally came to a lease agreement with the Gogo (grandmother) who owns the building we want to make into our youth centre. Well, for now, two rooms in the building. The location is perfect as it’s just past the taxi rank in the main part of the village near the satellite municipal office, community centre, crèche and Siyanakekela (the home based care NPO I work for). The building used to be a very popular shabeen (bar) but now it is falling apart and only one of the rooms is being used by some young guys who have a pool table and sell some snacks.

 

When we first started thinking about turning the youth project into an NPO and having a youth centre, this building was my first choice. It is easily accessible for everyone in the village and many people pass it every day which is good advertisement for our programs. Unfortunately, the negotiations were taking much longer than expected and at one point we considered finding another location. After five months of visits, discussions and negotiations, the Gogo finally decided to sign the lease which says we can use two rooms in the building for three years without paying rent if we renovate the two rooms. We were hoping for five years but we will take it.

It isn’t a huge project – hopefully it will be finished next week if we work really hard – but I’m sure it will look like a new place when we are finished. The ceiling needs to be fixed, part of the wall plastered, floor redone, electricity and lights installed, new glass window and painted inside and outside. The hardware shop in Weenen is helping us out with the project and isn’t making a profit as they are giving everything to us at cost. We also agreed that the builder would oversee the project and give skills to the youth where they are lacking. For example, there were eight of us today and the builder showed the youth how to mix the cement, how to cut the ceiling and how to use tools to cut the wall to create a door. It was so empowering and uplifting to see my youth work hard and use their hands and talents to fix this building. I am so excited to see what the finished product looks like and for them to take ownership and pride over the building. If all goes well we are going to have an opening event and braii next Saturday!

This week marks the official start of Simunye Youth Development Project’s life skills training. The three week training began on Monday in Ezitendeni Hall in Weenen. Thirty new out-of-school, unemployed youth attended the training to gain more life skills and career guidance.

The training will cover sessions including vision and goal setting, leadership, volunteering, communication, relationships, budgeting and savings, entreperneurship, personal development, HIV transmission and prevention, pregnancy and STIs and peer education. Youth who complete the training will be eligible for computer and business training after they complete the volunteer portion of the program.

The life skills manual is heavily based off of SLOT and World Changers Academy’s Life Skills Manual (two organizations in PMB and DBN respectively).they developed the manual about 10 years and have been using it with out of school youth in their area. While the manual was a great jumping off point, we decided to revamp it by modifying some sessions and adding some of our own including the Stars of Tomorrow HIV peer education training and Operation Hope’s Banking on our future finance training. We believe that this new and improved life skills training will greatly benefit the youth in the rural Weenen-Msinga area who are in desperate need of guidance in life and careers as well as with empowerment and skill development.

 

Twenty youth gathered in Ezitendeni hall, 7km from Weenen town for a certified SEDA (Small
Enterprise Development Agency) business training from November 28 – 30th. SEDA is a government
organization that uses its funds to outsource business trainings of all different levels to South
African’s living in rural areas. We were first introduced to SEDA back in July when the youth officer
at DSD organized different departments to come to Ezitendeni to talk about opportunities for the
youth.

Although I was misled about the purpose of the meeting, all of my Stars of Tomorrow were invited
to attend and many of them did plus additional youth. It ended up being a great meeting and
opportunity for the youth to hear from Department of Labour, DSD, SEDA and Department of
Economic Development. The main issue I had, however, is that after the meeting none of the
departments planned on following up with the youth or giving them practical information about how
they can access their services. No wonder why the youth are so discouraged. People come and talk
to them all the time but they never actually do anything for them.

I made a point to made contact with the speakers after the meeting and in particular planned
a follow up meeting where SEDA would come back to do a needs analysis. The man from SEDA
returned the end of August and met with some of my youth to see what kind of training or
information they would like about business. Many of the youth had business ideas or had started a
business before but had failed because they didn’t have basic skills or knowledge about how to run a
business. Therefore, we decided for the training to be about business start-up, the basics about how
to start a business and how to write an effective business plan.

I organized for SEDA to come in November after the school drama campaign was finished as an
incentive and reward for the youth who worked so hard educating the community about HIV and
pregnancy. We were lucky enough to even have four youth from Tugela Ferry come and join in
the training! It was a little bit hectic but we were able to make it work. I was present for most of
the training and I think it went really well. The groups came up with different ideas for businesses,
similar to those back in June at the Asset Based Community Driven Development training including
a shisa inyama (hot meat) shop, hair salon and a vegetable stand. It was great because the youth
learned about the feasibility of a business idea, the inputs required and how profit is made.

They actively used the workbook throughout the training, worked in small groups and even had
homework. The majority of them seemed to take it very seriously and took the time to really think
about each session and how it relates in real life. There are a few good things that will come from
this training. Not only were the youth empowered by gaining needed skills to actually start their
business, but they now have a chance to get funding as well.

SEDA is holding a competition the end of January where the best business ideas could win money
to make their dreams come true. They want to come back for an additional two day training in
January to help the youth answer the questions/expand on the business plan so they can apply for
this competition. Also, Ithala bank is giving out loans to youth who want to start businesses thanks
to funds from the NYDA. I am going to help some of the youth apply for these loans as well. It was
really great to see everything come full circle and I can’t wait to see some of these businesses come
to fruition.

 

Over the past two months the Stars of Tomorrow have been working hard educating learners in the Weenen area about teen pregnancy, HIV and abuse. We partnered with the Weenen police for this campaign as they assist us with transport and talk about abuse to the learners. The campaign has been going so well! In September, the Stars visited 7 schools and 600 learners and in October they visited 10 schools and 736 learners for a whopping total of 17 schools 1,136 learners (grades 6-11), and the campaigns still not over!

So what do the Stars of Tomorrow do exactly at these school visits? First, they administer surveys to the learners which I put together with the help of the nurse at the clinic and the police. The surveys test the knowledge and beliefs of the learners regarding pregnancy, HIV, condoms and abuse. The surveys are anonymous to help make the learners feel more comfortable answering the questions, but we do record the age and gender on the survey to help when we analyze the data later on. After the surveys are finished, the youth ask the learners about their dreams and goals for the future. Then all the learners gather outside for the role play portion of the visit. The Stars then perform a few short role plays warning girls of the dangers of dating older men, how to talk to your partner about condom use and the affects of teen pregnancy and abuse.

After the dramas, the facilitators split the boys and girls up into groups when possible and talk more about the dramas while also answering the questions of the learners. After the facilitation session and the talk about abuse by the police, the learners then complete the post survey which will be used as a monitoring and evaluation tool of the campaign. Many of the schools we visited are in deep rural areas where they are often forgotten by government departments like department of social development and department of health. We were warmly welcomed by many teachers who were so happy the youth were coming to talk to the learners about these important topics. Even though these issues should be covered in their life orientation classes, teachers are often ill informed or do not feel comfortable talking about sex to the learners. They welcomed the Stars with both arms.

It’s been amazing to see my youth grow and benefit from this campaign as well. Most of these youth were doing nothing productive before and had no real meaning in their lives. By going out to these rural schools to share their knowledge to kids not much younger or different than them, they have begun to see how they can positively impact their own communities. They have done such an excellent job taking leadership roles with this campaign by communicating with the police and schools when I was not available (cough sustainability). I am in the process right now of inputting all the pre and post survey results into the computer and then analyzing them to see what the next campaign should focus on and how effective the dramas were as an education tool. Regardless of what the results prove, we have continued the conversation about HIV and warned young girls about the negative consequences of getting pregnant before they are ready and of the dangers older men can bring. It has definitely been a success!