The Institute of Healing Memories is undoubtedly making a positive impact on the lives of youth -- both in the city and in the rural townships.
The youth are affirmed via the institute's positive and holistic approach to post-apartheid community (re)building, healing, and development; they participate in art workshops during which they can explore their histories, share their experiences with trauma and/or hardships (as many of the youth are dealing with a wide range of social issues), go on day trips to cultural preserves in order to learn more about their histories, and participate in the planning and execution of a bi-annual festival of over 300 youth. Needless to say, the team that implements the programs being funded by GlobalGiving is doing incredible work.
On the morning of the visit, Charl picked me up and took me to the center's headquarters, which is just north of Cape Town. Their building is located in a nice neighborhood, surrounded by enough nature to make you feel as though you may be entering a resort. But inside, their space is practical; offices for staff (including the founder who I met briefly), meetings and conferences, including a few of the youth workshops. The staff had cleared their schedule for the morning, so I spent about an hour speaking with the youth facilitators -- Charl, Sandile, Babalwl, and Liso -- and learning more about their various programs: Youth Art Development, Day Trips, School Diversity Programs, and Community Outreach (in the townships).
After our chat -- and a sunny photo shoot outside in their gardens -- I accompanied them to a school workshop where I spoke with a teacher who had never had his class participate but spoke highly of their program. He remarked, "The learners are taught what to think, not how. Their workshops are interactive. The learners like that." In an exercise intended to drive home the idea of empathy, identity, and humanity, the students were split into three groups, and given large white posterboard on which they were to trace with a pen the outline of a human (one of the students!) After tracing the human outline, they each wrote in words that they believed "made us human." I didn't get to stay till the end to see the finished product, but it was clear that the students were enjoying the exercise when I left.
The spirit in the room was infectious, and I could understand better the comments from the youth leaders about why they love what they do:
"You never expect what you hear from youth. They speak their mind. They say what is there."
"[Our workshops] give people a platform to speak, meet young people from different townships. Even if they don't always speak the same language. They understand and support each other."
"They come to rely on you. They tell you things. It is hard to listen sometimes, because they go through things. But where else will they go?"
The youth development programs of the Institute for Healing Memories is absolutely making a positive impact on the lives of marginalized youth in Cape Town. Check out the fun pictures I took from the visit!
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