Why did you agree to take part and sleep out on the streets on one of the coldest nights of the year?
Many South Africans – among them children – are homeless and sleep on the street whether it’s warm or cold. This initiative will help us become more sensitive and bridge the gap between those who have a warm bed every night and the less fortunate who struggle to make a living and have no warm beds to sleep in at night.
What does philanthropy mean to you?
The ethos of our organisation is about providing and strengthening sustainable social development responses. Philanthropy is one element of this response and gives people from across the society the opportunity to be part of social development.
What do you expect to get from the SleepOut?
Apart from the fund-raising element of the SleepOut – which is important for a non-profit civil society organisation like Girls and Boys Town – we are also excited to have the opportunity to interact with leaders of the business sector and other industries and to grow awareness of both our organisation as well as the need for our work, across South Africa. The spotlight on our work will also allow partners and the public to better understand that Girls and Boys Town is not a school or a place where parents send naughty children. The therapeutic and healing functions we perform are undertaken in residential centres and in communities, and assist abused, marginalised and vulnerable young people deal with and overcome their problems.
What is your biggest concern about the evening?
We want to ensure that the evening is not seen as a once-off event, where leaders and CEOs come, spend the night and walk away forgetting the experience when they return to their “real lives”. The evening should be the start of a movement through which we deepen philanthropy in order to make measurable gains in how we look after South Africa’s girls and boys – and how we respond to other social challenges we face today.
What are you looking forward to most?
I am looking forward to having many friends, colleagues and supporters around us on 18 June. It’ll be an experience that all of us will remember for the rest of our lives.
Please tell us a little bit about your work.
I’m humbled by the work that we do – and proud of the Girls and Boys Town history and the difference we have been able to make since our inception 57 years ago. I have been at the helm of our organisation since 2007 and prior to that, my professional life has focused on education and counselling. I trained as a psychologist, and I’m looking forward to finishing my PhD in the next year or so. I wouldn’t want to be working in any other area – I believe that children’s rights, progress, wellness and development is where our future is, and I’m glad to be playing a part in it today. I appreciate that I can work alongside so many dedicated and caring professionals, and that although working with children who are troubled by life’s circumstances is hard and emotional, being part of this amazing collective makes it easier. Currently we help about 34000 beneficiaries a year, including some 250 girls and boys who are directly in our care – as well as their families, teachers, and counsellors and many more youth who reside in the community but benefit from our methods and programmes. As the CEO of Girls and Boys Town, I am always thinking about the organisation’s sustainability, human resources and sources of funding three, five and even 10 years from now, as I do not think that the need among our beneficiaries will lessen much in the time that is ahead of us.
What do you enjoy the most about working for GBT?
I love being with the youth and seeing them first face up to and then, in the majority of cases, overcome their challenges. Their resilience, originality and even the fun and games they come up with are all wonderful to watch. The testimonies of young men and women who have succeeded despite various hardships they encountered early on in life are a precious gift.
What do you find most challenging?
We have to acknowledge that despite best attempts, it is not possible to help every young person overcome their problems and shine. We are a facilitator in children’s wellness and development but the child needs to actively want our help and participate in the process of his or her own progress. And for a variety of reasons this sometimes does not happen and while it is difficult, we need to accept that this is a reality.
If you could have any one wish for GBT what would it be?
I’d like to see all our girls and boys shine – and then pay-it-forward and help other young people overcome their difficulties and shine.
|Message from our Chief Executive Officer|
Dear Friends and Caring Partners of Girls and Boys Town,
Our children desperately need opportunities in which we can introduce alternative ways of understanding life and the way it should be lived.
We must set them on the path to a happy and fulfilling future and help them become responsible South African citizens. Of course, like youth everywhere, they are inclined to think “they know it all”. So a direct, instructional approach doesn’t yield good results.
That is why we utilise the Peer Groups System of Self Governance and Youth Manager Systems, as well as practice a fun, formative and informed approach through sport, art, music, drama, hobbies and life experiences. I hope you will enjoy reading about some of their shining moments collected for this newsletter.
It is not all sweetness and light though, there are always challenges! The ‘road to enlightenment’ can be pretty rocky sometimes, as you will read. But it is a wonderful moment when an uncooperative child achieves his first good report or succeeds at something for the first time – creating an opportunity to use that moment to achieve other wonderful shifts into the future.
Fortunately we have a philosophy that works. All we need is the support to be able to bring as many of these opportunities as we can, to our children. The years roll by so quickly and it would be heart breaking to know how we could have helped a child, but could not afford to do so.
That is why your friendship is so very important to me. Without you and our wonderful community of supporters, I’d probably not have this portfolio of success stories to share with you today. So this communication comes with my heartfelt thanks for your loyalty and generosity. Thank you too for making it possible for our youngsters to celebrate their achievements last year as they spent some time with their families or on camp over the festive season.
It was the final match of the Soccer Knockout Finals between Green Point Salesians and Table View United at The Royal Road Soccer Field in Milnerton.
It was down to the wire – the last two teams of this 30-team tournament – in which the likes of Ajax had already been knocked out. Competition had been tough but the two remaining teams had shown unrivalled calibre and skill.
On this Saturday morning our Dingle Boys – our ‘Salesians’ stars – were ready for action. Sizwe, Nkosana and Brian had given their all in the previous matches, training vigorously during the week, playing with their heart, bodies and souls every Saturday for many weeks. The hard work, commitment, focus and true skill had resulted in the final encounter between the remaining two forces on the field.
The game was on and the support was great, tensions high amongst players and spectators. Our three boys, one of whom had not been confident on the field, now demonstrated skill and a confidence to be reckoned with. The other two more experienced players supported our youngest on the field.
The first half came and went – the score still 0-0! The frustration was showing as both teams tried their best to walk away as victors and champions! And then it came! The deciding and only goal! And scored by whom? None other than our very own Nkosana! The stadium erupted and suddenly there was a total change
At last the referee blew the final whistle; the game was over. We did it – the final
Their enthusiasm, pride and glowing smiles, however, could not be curbed. Andwhy should it have been? This was, after all, one of their great shining moments!
Andile emphasized how valuable the teaching of social skills at Girls and Boys Town had proved to be: “Skills like greeting people, showing respect and following rules have been so important in helping me be successful.”
He is now studying Human Resources and Labour Relations at a University of Technology. When asked how he survived his first year after Girls and Boys Town, Andile advised, “Be strong and persevere. Success will come, even if you cannot see it now.”
It is thanks to your partnership with us that together we are able to ensure that our youth are set on their pathways to achieving their dreams – and to shine. Thank you.
A truly amazing race
Every year the girls and boys in our Youth Development Centres elect their councillors and mayor, and for our part, we give them the opportunity to develop their leadership skills and equip them for the challenges that lie ahead.
Over a weekend last April, Girls and Boys Town Magaliesburg ran a Councillor Leadership Skills and Team Building weekend. The councillors, and another team of boys to oppose them, took part in a 24-hour “Amazing Race”.
The race consisted of a variety of challenges ranging from raft building, deciphering secret codes, blindfolded guided mountaineering, to blindfolded painting, working out war cries and camping under the stars.
The objective was for the boys to learn to plan, co-operate and communicate as a team to achieve optimum results. We also had a very special night out camping, making dough-bread and wors. Staff and youth sat around a campfire and discussed what we had learned from the day’s activities and what the youth leadership team needed to do to change to achieve better results.
Of course there was much banter between the teams and laughter over some of the outcomes – and many growth lessons and skills were learned. These young people will now have an opportunity to apply these skills within the programmes and staff will draw off these ‘amazing race’ experiences and skills learned as they guide our young people towards success and achievement.Our two volunteers from the UK, Lewis and Luke, played a big role in helping make this weekend a success. Their effort and dedication were greatly appreciated by everyone.
Eight boys from Macassar Campus and one boy from Dingle were smartly dressed in their school uniforms. At the fire station, the Chief gave the boys a tour, which they found very informative. The boys were interested in knowing everything and asked a lot of questions.
Selwyn presented a Certificate of Appreciation to the chief, which said, “Certificate of Appreciation, presented to the Ottery Fire Station, in recognition of your generous contribution to the human race. Your acts are courageous and truly voluntary. World Humanitarian Day 2014.”
Raymond especially enjoyed being involved in all the activities and said he would love to go back to the fire station and volunteer his time there. What an excellent suggestion! It will give him an interest that would help him develop his sense of responsibility.
This is just one of many opportunities we give the youth to broaden their understanding of the workings of the world and give them confidence. It is intended to be a developmental experience as well as a ‘fun outing’. Naturally they are not all at the stage where they are ready to welcome this chance, and some boys decided not to go on the outing.
That was their choice and we respect their right to make their own decisions – although we will continue to work on developing their sense of community and appreciation of others who serve their communities.
Most of the boys behaved impeccably and empathetic statements and words of praise were used throughout the session to validate their positive reactions. But there are times when outings present us with challenges. A number of the boys, who are still coming to terms with their new way of life at Girls and Boys Town, decided they were not going to fall in with the plan.
Sibusiso refused to follow instructions and wanted to go and pick up cigarette butts in the parking area. Freddy said he was “bored” and wanted to go back to campus. Farhad wanted to play with the hosepipes while the Chief was busy with the group. Our response was to separate these boys from the group and apply our methodology of corrective teaching.
Those that were appropriately responsive rejoined the group, but those who refused remained outside, where the opportunity to continue shifting inappropriate behaviors to the learning of appropriate alternative behaviors was seized and utilized by staff for the rest of the afternoon.
We recognise and understand rebellious behavior; it is a predictable reaction to our girls and boys past experiences and to their adjustment process. Our response is to remain constant to our values and standards and set an example of consistency and reliability. Over time, our girls and boys do adapt and become co-operative, contributing members of our unique society, then to their families, schools and communities.
Our thanks go to everyone who made this day possible. The trip was a great success and much enjoyed by the youth who went.
If you believe you can read, you actually can read!
Agrippa, a Grade six boy at Girls and Boys Town, was asked to read in our Learning Support Centre class but he replied, “I can’t read.” Our educator asked, “Who said you cannot read?” The boy replied, “I know I can’t read.”
In a way the boy was right; that was what he had been told and that was what he believed. So, naturally, he never attempted to read. In planning to shift this false belief and have the youth experience the first small step towards achievement, success and self-belief, the Girls and Boys Town Learning Support Educator gave Agrippa a reading card during study time, spent time teaching him and had him practice the words for the next day.
The following day he read all the words on the card and was rewarded with appropriately reinforcing privileges, smiles and congratulations. That day, Agrippa learnt something new about himself – he could read!
Children need positive input, no matter what challenges they are facing. One positive comment can change a child’s future. Agrippa is now one of the boys who reports to the Learning Support Centre almost every day for assistance and his academic work is showing great improvement.
Learning to say NO! to drugs
The girls and boys at our four Learning Support Centres observed “International Day Against Drug Abuse” in June. Guest speakers addressed the youth about their own personal experiences with drug abuse and the physical, emotional and mental impact on their lives.
One speaker spoke about his 10-year addiction to drugs. The youth listened attentively as he shared how his education had been affected by continuously dropping out of school, stealing from his parents to support his habit, and how he ultimately ended up on the streets with only a black bag of clothes.
Another speaker focused on the long term effects of drug abuse and how he had initially experimented with marijuana. He recounted how he had eventually moved to stronger drugs when marijuana could no longer give him the high he could not live without.
As a student sitting in class, just like our youth, he had not known how his life would change and be influenced by his addiction. He had thought he could handle it and stay in control, but he soon learnt how wrong he was!
He had held a job as a financial manager at a bank; he had a good life and a nice house in an upmarket area. The drugs, however, made him violent and he only realised how dangerous his addiction was when he held a gun to his four-year-old daughter’s head.
The speakers encouraged the youth to say “NO” to drugs and ask for help, how they must be their brother’s keeper and report, out of concern, if their friends were using. It certainly made our girls and boys have another think about drug taking.
Academic successes at Magaliesburg
Of course some children are more academically inclined than others – all we expect is that each boy or girl does the best he or she can and reaches their full potential. The joy is when our shining stars really do shine.
It gives us great pleasure to report on one of our shining stars –Ndumiso – and to think that he had been “written off” by a mainstream school a couple of years ago!
However, with your donor support and the Girls and Boys Town belief in his potential and abilities, we worked with him intensively motivating him to work really hard.
From ‘abandonment from the mainstream system’ he achieved an aggregate mark for the first half of grade eight with a very gratifying 72.6%. He passed all his subjects with his best results in Visual Arts (100%), Technology (87%) and English First Language (86%).
Well done, Ndumiso! You are a credit to yourself, Girls and Boys Town and to all of our donors who have believed in and supported you. Keep working hard and the world will be your oyster.
Through our Learning Support Centres, we help youngsters who have missed months or years of schooling to bridge and catch up to the Grade appropriate for their age.
This year one of our young boys, after much focused work, was promoted a Grade mid-year for “continuous good performance”. Well-done Naresh! We are all so proud of you. Keep it up.
Arts and crafts help to heal!
In every way we can, we support the teaching of social skills and help our young one’s find their way by providing opportunities for our youth to express themselves creatively through the visual and performing arts that appeal to them.
Brendan is a younger boy at the Verulam Home who has shown an aptitude in the art of writing lyrics and rapping them. This has proved to be a very positive and successful way to compensate for one of his previously challenging behaviours – negative attention seeking. He is now appropriately revered for his talents and skills that attract positive attention and reinforcement.
We, with your support and donor partnership, will create opportunities for him to perform his rap song that is shared here:
“Ja, Christians, you can see, that’s just me,