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.”