Amelia Yeo is Restless Development’s Senior Partnerships Manager and has just returned from spending time with staff and volunteers in the Eastern Cape in South Africa. Inspired by the stories she heard, in this blog she shares some of her favourite quotes from the visit.
A room packed filled of people and, one-by-one, each voIunteer demonstrated their new-found confidence as they shared their experiences of working in rural communities with Restless Development. Most attributed their increased self-belief to the time they spent with us. It made me feel really proud to work with such an incredible organisation and teams who work tirelessly to support these young leaders.
They are all involved in delivering trainings for in and out of school youth on a range of topics including – but not limited to – sexual and reproductive health and rights, livelihoods and employment (including careers fairs, events, and fundraising), and gender based violence.
All of them spoke about their big learning journey. On a personal level in their relationships with each other and the young people they worked with. But also in terms of the issues faced by young people in South Africa, including drug and alcohol abuse, marginalisation and discrimination, and socio-economic barriers to accessing rights and services.
One thing they all spoke about was empowerment. More specifically, the potential for young people to be change-makers at a local and national level, if given the platforms and the chance to amplify their voices. This is exactly our mission.
Here are ten of my favourite quotes from the trip:
“We teach in primary schools – grade 7. It’s crazy how much they understand about drugs at that age – they are so present in the communities.”
“Our relationship with the students has blossomed, I didn’t realise until our main event how strong it was. We were struggling to get things ready for a big event, and the students came to help us get ready for our guests. They sang and entertained the crowd while we were getting ready. They’re asking for us to come back.”
“Session on healthy relationships is also a big thing in primary school – young people think that marital rape doesn’t exist because the husband’s own the wife. We are challenging engrained beliefs through our work”
“We teach at Tsola High – the best school I’ve ever been to. The students always participate, they engage – there are so many questions at the end that we don’t have enough time to answer them. I feel like a celebrity every time I walk in!”
“Our clinic sessions are really busy – 50 people on a usual day. We don’t just talk to young people – we talk with older people as well so they take the lessons back to their children and grandchildren.”
“The perception is that the only disease is HIV and that you can tell by looking at someone if they have it. We work to educate people about these myths.”
“We sign-post young people to clinics where we have worked to create youth –friendly services. We ensure that they are able to come to us and talk confidentially if they are still worried about going to the clinics , and we have put up posters in clinics to give helpline numbers.”
“Before I came here I didn’t know what to expect. It was challenging during the first half of the cycle and I wondered if we were making an impact. I pushed myself to try things I hadn’t before – like going out to the communities and asking questions about what they would want to change in South Africa…I had a message from a student to say that it had prompted her to make choices and think about her future”
“Before this programme, I would describe myself as an individual who wasn’t confident enough to stand and speak in front of many people. I was that one person who was always taking the back-seat when it comes to dealing with people… now I can stand and say I am open minded..”
“Being a team leader has helped me to be responsible. As a leader, people look up at you. If you make a mistake, you must make sure that whatever you are doing people are looking at you to understand your motives. I feel honoured to have had this opportunity.”