For the past two months I, along with Arlene, Ben, and Rachel, have had the privilege of working at Yabonga—a non-governmental organization supporting people directly affected by or living with HIV. Although Yabonga has support centers in twelve township communities around Cape Town, we were based in Khayelitsha at the Youth Centre that opened just over a year ago. The Youth Centre is an extension of the orphans and vulnerable children’s program and allows the youth to continue to be a part of the Yabonga community as they grow up. The youth programs offer a variety of activities tailored to high school age students including support groups, individual and group counseling, HIV education, academic assistance, career guidance, as well as activities centering around music, arts and sports. Through these programs students learn important life skills focusing on communication, confidence, and teamwork.
|Rachel, Arlene, and I with some of the gap years!|
During our time at Yabonga we were able to take part in a variety of activities, programs, and special events; however, our main focus was on the higher education and career guidance workshop that we planned, organized, and lead alongside Yabonga’s gap year students. The higher education and career guidance workshop’s primary objectives are to inform students of their opportunities for higher education and potential career options, as well as discuss the necessary steps to take in order for them reach their education and career goals. Unfortunately, the high schools that these students of Yabonga attend do not currently offer any counseling or information regarding higher education or career opportunities and therefore are often unaware of the necessary coursework, deadlines, and marks required for admission into higher education programs and jobs. During this workshop students participate in a number of educational activities, information sessions, group discussions, and student panels specifically aimed to address this crucial need for information and guidance for students to know how and when to apply for higher education and bursaries and understand exactly what they need to be doing to fulfill requirements, meet expectations, and ultimately achieve their goals. The fact that we get to spend so much time with the gap years and work directly with them on this project really makes our time at Yabonga so special.
Over the course of the summer we were fortunate enough to have some of our days at Yabonga coincide with national holidays making for particularly memorable events. The first was Youth Day—a celebration that commemorates the brave students that protested education laws during apartheid in 1976. The most fun part of the day was getting to watch everyone practice. The gap years literally brainstormed ideas for their program, choreographed a 15 minute singing, dancing, drama skit combination, and had it basically perfected in an hour. They are the most talented group of people I have ever met. As soon as they started singing (and each one has an incredible voice) my jaw dropped. Later on the high school students came from school and ran through their routine and I was in awe again. Their program was so beautiful and inspiring and showcased each of their talents.
|A youth group practicing for the Youth Day ceremony!|
Our final day at Yabonga was Mandela Day on July 18th. Nelson Mandela, who passed away in December but would have celebrated his 96th birthday this year, continues to inspire South Africans and people around the world through his legacy. In his honor, people are encouraged to devote 67 minutes to community service in recognition of his 67 years spent fighting for equality against the oppressive apartheid regime. The REDISA (recycling and economic development in South Africa) organization came to Yabonga for the holiday to donate food, blankets, and toys. They also spent the afternoon with us, the Yabonga youth counselors, and some gap students and youth building a garden, planting vegetables, and painting. I think we all had a great time getting our hands (and clothes) a little dirty for this special day of service.
|Some of the Youth Counselors and students excited for Mandela Day|
These are just a few of the reasons why Yabonga is what I’ll miss the most about South Africa.
|Me and Nandi (our Yabonga supervisor) on our last day|
- Carolyn Drogt