Youthzones is the flagship programme of the Foundation for a Safe South Africa, founded by Roelf Meyer in 2009. Its raison d’être is to assist the poorest of the poor to take ownership of their lives and contribute positively to their communities, thereby making South Africa a safe and healthy society.
Youthzones started with the mandate to give disadvantaged youth tangible hope and smart choice alternatives by creating a peer-to-peer support network across all nine provinces in South Africa. The aim is to turn youth-at-risk into employable role-models. From only nine sites at inception, Youthzones’ reach and impact have expanded to 45 ‘zones’ with over 50 000 young people involved. It also operates in Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
The Youthzones development model includes four steps:
- Sport participation (mostly football) – to create trusting family units used as learning hubs;
- Computer literacy and internet access – provided to informal township sports teams;
- Work readiness – life-skills interventions which focus on personal growth and capacities;
- Enterprise development and entrepreneurship.
These steps are tools to reactivate pride and dignity. Youthzones is very unique in the way it gives total freedom and trust to beneficiaries, and a chance to once again believe in themselves and pursue their dreams. Its implementation values include doing things step-by-step (organic), through friendship (relational), and following an integrated (holistic) approach.
Youthzones likes to think of itself not as a programme, but a family.
The Youthzones model is widely celebrated, and is currently used by Laureus Sport for Good to fight rhino poaching in the Kruger National Park. It was also chosen as Bidvest Wits Football Club‘s charity of choice.
Despite its success, Youthzones is also confronted with the same challenges as many other development organisations. Sustainable funding is a concern, but the real need is selfless leadership and individuals that will continuously place others above themselves. Often youth are unemployed and unemployable, and the journey to learn new skills, excellence and patience, is very challenging. People are led by the media to think change comes quickly, but there are no shortcuts to success and meaningful impact.
It takes time to create real change, and that’s why Youthzones’ slogan is “Kuthatha Isikhathi” – it takes time.
This is the fourth NGO profile of my #NGOs4Africa Campaign.