Earlier this summer, I visited the Institute for Healing of Memories. On the morning of the my visit, Charl, one of the lead youth workers, picked me up and took me to the center's headquarters, which is just north of Cape Town.
IHM's 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.
At their headquarters, I spent a little over an hour speaking with and getting to know passionate youth facilitators -- Charl, Sandile, Babalwl, and Liso, who all raved about the organization's efforts, the support they receive as youth workers, and even some of the challenges they face working in township communities.
For instance, I learned that the institute's positive and holistic approach to post-apartheid community (re)building, healing, and development really does resonate with young people, who appreciate learning about their histories. Through art workshops, they learn about and discuss important political milestones and moements, share their experiences with trauma and/or hardships (as many of the youth are dealing with a wide range of social issues).Later, I got to to accompany the youth workers to a high school workshop. 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 that, they each wrote in words that they believed "made us human."
Before the workshop I began, I had spoken with a teacher who remarked of IHM, "The learners are taught what to think, not how. Their workshops are interactive. The learners like that." As I watched the workshop unfold, I better understood what he meant. The spirit in the room was infectious, and the dedication (love, even) that the youth workers have for working with young people was so evident.
Here's some of what they said about working with young people in the townships:
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