When we started SAYes we were responding to the needs of a young man we met who had lived on the streets of Cape Town, moved into a children’s home, and had to leave and be independent at the age of 18 without any support or plan in place, and he was afraid. Our reaction was an emotional one; we saw he needed support and after many discussions we decided to set up a charity to support him and others like him. We had no idea we would be creating an organization that would have the capacity to positively impact so many young people like him, as well as the volunteer mentors who go through our programme.
This year has been one of the most difficult for all of us. We had hopes that 2021 was going to be better than 2020, but it disappointed. We find ourselves complaining that this year has been spent mostly online, staring at a screen. The young people we work with have been lucky if they have had access to a screen to enable them to connect at all.
While our switch to remote mentoring is working extraordinarily well; much better than we could have anticipated; a sign of the times, perhaps; the additional costs of providing digital access to our mentees has meant we have only been able to support half our target number of mentees this year. We hope to fix that next year.
Despite all this we have experienced some great new initiatives. We launched our UK programme for young people leaving care. We were thrilled to have found a donor in the UK who funded our pilot programme in full. We are learning a great deal, and we are providing fantastic support to a small number of young people who have left the care system and are living independently. These young people will form our advisory team and together we will plan our next steps, once the pilot is completed.
Our South African alumni presented at parliament, proposing that an amendment to the Children’s Act should include mentors for young people leaving care until the age of 25.
Collaboration has been a constant theme for us this year. We have established new relationships with great organisations in South Africa, the UK, and throughout Africa. We have new collaborations lined up for next year, focusing on changing the perspective of mentoring from one that is a luxury, to one that acknowledges the absolute necessity for young people to have the guidance, advocacy and support of a trained, supported mentor, if they are to flourish as they transition to independence, work, further study etc.
These last couple of years have been all about transitions for SAYes as an organization, as well as for our mentees and many of our mentors too. We will continue to respond to the needs of under-served young people as their circumstances change. We can only do this with your ongoing support, for which we are extremely grateful.
We hope you will stand with us in 2022, as we navigate the next phase of COVID.
Wishing you a happy, safe, healthy, Christmas and new year, with love, Gillian and Michelle