Young people growing up in the township of Barrydale and on the surrounding farms often have poor role models from within their own families, from within their peer groups as well as from within their community. In consequence, they are plagued by a lack of ambition which ultimately leads to unemployment and associated social ills. There is little to inspire them to find a way of living that is different from that of isolation and confinement. Only a handful reach the final year of school and even those who do, find that the matric certificate is a passport to nowhere. The challenge for Net vir Pret is to teach youth to think independently, to give them problems to solve rather than ready-made answers.
We are guided by the following principles in connecting with youth:
• Look for progress, not perfection;
• Show rather than preach:
• Have care, compassion, empathy
• Encourage more than criticize
• Acknowledge each individual as unique
To meet this challenge Net vir Pret has developed a programme which aims to empower and develop youth (both in Barrydale and on the surrounding farms) to build positive self-esteem, confidence and a strong sense of responsibility. In addition, the programme aims to help participants exercise these qualities by ensuring their participation in leadership roles in the social and economic life of community and to encourage participants to discover and develop their own unique skills and talents which might lead to future life and career paths.
The Programme runs over two years and consists of weekly input sessions with leadership-in-practice experiences. This is the second year for participating youths with new members still joining the group. We find however that the programme becomes a way of life for some of the participants who continue to attend long after their two years of training is over. Four such youth leaders are example of true commitment to the youth leadership programme this will be their 6th year with the organisation, we now see them as assistants, leaders, facilitators. Today’s youth are well aware of the social- economic and environmental issues that affect their lives, thus we believe and preach – “be a part of the solution rather than being the problem”.
Achievements of the young persons, however slight, are encouraged. There is no possibility of failure. Music, Sports, Drama and Dancing provide them with a platform to express their true creativeness and skills; this is also a great way for them to explore their inherent values such as reliability, ability to work,
We encourage among these young people inherent values and traits such as:
1. Polite behaviour and Fairness
3. Self hygiene
5. Reliability and Dedication
6. Integrity and Accountability
8. Mutual Respect, Equality, Tolerance and Diversity
10. Courage in challenging situations
Participants are engaged in life skills training every week for an hour and half. Topics cover:
Personal Development – using personal development techniques with the focus on awareness of self and others, building confidence (for example yoga, meditation, breathing techniques)
Building Resilience - interpersonal relationships, problem solving, decision making and conflict resolution.
Leadership Development - understanding leadership, qualities of leadership – emphasizing that leadership is not just the form (having skills like listening skills, good public speaking skills, goal setting and time management) but also consist of character (integrity, values, beliefs – the things he/she stands for, ultimately that is the kind of leader that their family needs, that’s what the community needs, that’s what the world needs!
Planning for the Future - the world of work (career options), further study (exploring any tertiary institutions)
The second part of our training programme consists of leadership in practice, where leaders apply what was learnt during the formal sessions. Equipped with the set of leadership skills the young leaders have to learn to become effective leaders thus when volunteering in our Holiday school programmes during April and June/ 2012 they are challenged when they need to plan, implement and carry out planned initiatives. Often a challenge arrives in the form of dealing with difficult children, mis-communication between themselves and staff members, poor time management and trying to solve problems coming out of said events.
Lessons Learnt and Future Plans
The biggest thing we’ve learnt is that a hands-on approach shapes the potential leader rather than methodology alone. Active participation in activities and initiatives has proven to contribute hugely to forming leaders. Through volunteering in our organisation’s respective programmes and projects, youth leaders are empowered with a voice, a purpose, a means to engage with other people especially their peers. Social engagement strengthens social (learning about cultural diversity, values and ideas) integration of young people into the community.
Our plans are to have leadership programmes running on different farms where young people are especially marginalized and isolated and to expand our services to other towns nearby.