Author: Lissadell Breinholt
Madiba, perhaps the most famous of South Africa’s icons, said “education is the greatest tool with which you can change the world”.
From this belief, the Routes to Resilience programmes were formed – shaping youth into leaders for a more sustainable future!
In July, I acted as Participant Observer of the first Routes to Resilience youth programme at the Grootbos Private Nature Reserve. Getting to know the youth participants gave me insight into the programme. So, let me tell you about the benefit it has had on the youth –
Arriving, on the first day, they were nervous and quiet. Some came with friends from school, others came alone. Regardless, they all found themselves pushed out of their comfort zones – interacting with people from different socioeconomic backgrounds and belief systems to their own. Speaking to the facilitators early that evening, it was clear that they had concerns. How were these youth ever meant to collaborate when they were so diverse?
However, with help from Helene Smitt, utilising ideas from depth psychology, the barriers began to break down. We saw how privilege can transcend race and wealth, and came to understand each other in a way that surprised the youth. Later, once it was dark, we found ourselves under the stars, an activity that was specifically designed to place us on a level playing field. It was a humbling experience, seeing the immensity of the universe, and our minuteness in the face of it. Though the youth had seen the same sky thousands of times before, it was still an incredible learning experience. They described it as “mind-blowing”, but it was the looks of astonishment and realisation that really showed the learning that was taking place. Through such a simple exercise, these youth were coming to see that humans are just a small piece of the puzzle, and yet we have caused so much destruction!
As the programme progressed, I saw how the youth’s understanding of systems and complexity developed. They started to appreciate the impact they were having, telling me that they had never thought about how every one of their actions had an impact before. Of course, they weren’t only being taught about the shocking reality of the global situation. They were being introduced to entrepreneurs – like Queenie and Zozo in Masakhane – and seeing that anyone could make a difference, no matter how humble their circumstances. In showing them this, the facilitators were quietly planting a seed… like Zozo and Queenie, these youth had the power to create change!
The culmination of all this learning? It has now been three months since the programme closed. The youth have returned to school in their respective communities, but they remain in contact to discuss and plan their Social Action Projects. The El Natural group is growing an organic garden in their community, Zanele is leading female empowerment workshops, and AA Power is seeking energy freedom through solar power! Through mentorship, the youth have developed projects that enable them to enact their learning, showing their communities that sustainability leadership is a feasible reality.
I spoke to some of these youth just a few days ago… admittedly, they’re feeling daunted, but with such high aims it’s no surprise.