As 3pm hits, learners enter into a welcoming space immediately drawn to a circle of bright, cushioned chairs that bring colour to the room. Still in uniform they trickle in, dishing up food as Beyoncé’s latest album plays and sharing stories of the weekend as they settle in. Closer to the centre of the room, a friendly game of chess begins. This new social space at the Sustainability Institute is called the Youth Hub and officially opened its doors in May, 2016. Last month, on June 16th, South Africa commemorated Youth Day – the 40th anniversary of paying tribute to the youth of the past, and so we take a look at what the youth of our community are doing today and the promise they hold for the future.
The Sustainability Institute’s youth programme is one that seeks to both support the youth in the Lynedoch community through education and inspire them to choose positive life paths to discover their full potential in a creative and nurturing environment. It is from this vision that the Youth Hub emerged and it is in partnership with the community that it strives to meet the needs of their learners through the provision of supportive academic, recreational, cultural, sporting and welfare activities. From its initiation in April 2016, the Youth Hub focus is on 30 high school learners, 11 of whom joined us in May from different schools in the community.
“When they arrived at the Institute, I was really excited,” said Melisa Makillie (22), one of the Co-coordinators of the hub. As a mentor of Usiko Stellenbosch, Melisa has a passion for working with young individuals which is undeniable when she talks about the programme. “The Youth Hub provides a space for social interaction outside the classroom and it is our goal to build a system of support that can help learners through life, transitions and making decisions.” Duran Byman (22) works with Melisa as Co-coordinator and also holds the responsibility of helping train the Lynedoch United Junior soccer team. Having been part of the first soccer team at Lynedoch, the then Eco United, Duran realises the opportunity the youth of the community have in this space. “I never had the opportunities they have,” he said as he pointed to the group of kids he is teaching to play chess. “I didn’t have someone to show me how to do things. To teach me how play chess, to kick a ball. But they have that now. They have an opportunity to learn, to grow and fill up their time with great activities.”
This year, Duran and Melisa have a lot planned for the year, from activities around Art & Culture, to sport and team building activities to debate and excursions in nature but their biggest focus at the moment is on school work. “I know the school they come from, I know the system and a lot of them are struggling with their subjects”, said Melisa.
Within a few weeks, the learners already seem to appreciating the space. Bradley (15), an SI karate student particularly enjoys the chance to interact with other learners. “Normally I’m alone at home on a farm so there’s no other children I can talk to during the day – but I can communicate with children here”. Another learner Elize (16) from Stellenzicht High, came to the Youth Hub because she wants to build a better future for herself. “…That’s why I think it is important for me to come here every day. To find out more about the world and see what I really want to be. I want to have a future.”
And it is clear that Duran and Melisa also have faith in their learners: “These kids can set the bar for their communities. And they will achieve because they are willing to work hard to make something better of themselves.” They themselves are examples to the learners – with Melisa qualifying to compete in Zambia in the African Development Champs Tug-of-War competition this month and Duran training to be one of the Top 10 runners in the next Comrades Marathon – to inspire them to work hard and continue dreaming big.
These are just some of the stories of the young men and women who form part of the community at the Sustainability Institute. To hear more about the work that we do, stay in touch with us through our news page or through our social media networks, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.