The Most Inspiring Youth Workers You'll Ever Meet
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:
"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?"
In the face of funding cuts across South Africa's NGO sectors, it isnt always easy to prioritize which critical programs receive support and which don't. But Institute for Healing of Memories's youth development is making such a considerable impact-- and the staff are so dedicated, you can tell it's personal--it's hard to think of another youth organization in the area that's any more deserving of our support. What an inspirational group of people.
Preparing for the Workshpp o "Humanity"
Workshop Exercise: What Does It Mean to Be Human?