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!

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