My Journey with ACTIVATE! Tumelo Monakisi

I was just Tumelo Monakisi before ACTIVATE! Nothing was out of the ordinary, I was studying towards a Diploma in Youth Development. Life was good. I was comfortable with who I was. But then I came to ACTIVATE! and everything I thought I knew about myself just left me, I was left exposed. I had to re-evaluate, introspect and meet this new person who was emerging from within me. I realised that I was so used to my circumstances. I had accepted that I didn’t matter, my stories were irrelevant and nobody cared, and I gave up.

During the first module, I was given a chance to relive my past and to tell my stories to people who cared enough to look past the fact that I had failed so much. Remarkably, they noticed that I am still standing. 

I have gained more than just tools to tackle social problems around me, the network has given me a space to be myself and be comfortable in my own skin. I had always known what I wanted but how to get there was still blurry.

The experience so far has been very fulfilling and through the reactions of my friends and those around me, I can certainly say it has transformed me somehow. I am the Deputy Chairperson of Agape Youth Movement, a position in which I felt out of place. I had doubt about my leadership skills. Through the leadership skills course I have discovered that I have my own unique leadership style.

Recently, I was selected to be on the UNFPA’s (United Nations Population Fund) Youth Advisory Panel, which is a great personal achievement. This appointment has helped to expand my knowledge in youth development and to make meaningful connections. UNFPA is an organ of the United Nations that deals with population and development issues.

Throughout all the modules I have learnt to be positive and accept the challenges that I come across. It is truly an amazing programme and I am so touched by it.

It’s really motivating to be in a room full of like-minded young people who just want to change the world and some who are already there, it’s inspirational and moving. I have grown from the person that I was to this ambitious and self-driven young woman, because of all these young people and facilitators of ACTIVATE!

Lerato Mahoyi on SAFM

Heritage: a celebration of who we are

During September, South Africans celebrate heritage. 

A person’s heritage is made up of the practices and traditions that are passed on from parents to children and how we acknowledge one another’s identities as human beings. Heritage is also about what has been passed on from the family, community and place where people have been raised.

A country’s natural heritage is its beautiful environment and natural resources like gold and water. Areas that are very special and where animals or plants are in danger of extinction like the St. Lucia Wetlands and uKhahlamba Drakensberg Parks in KwaZulu Natal are world heritage sites. They are respected and protected against harm.

Cultural heritage is formed by those things or expressions that show the creativity of people. These can be special monuments, like a building, sculpture, painting, a cave dwelling or anything important because of its history, artistic or scientific value. The styles of buildings can also be part of our cultural heritage because of their architecture, where they are built or what they were used for. Robben Island, The Cradle of Humankind at the caves of Sterkfontein, Swartkrans and Kromdraai in Gauteng, the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park and the ancient city of Mapungubwe in Limpopo are all examples of South Africans cultural heritage.

“The idea for Sihambela Phambili came about during an exercise at Educo to create ‘ a dream organisation’. We wanted to bring something that would help us work within the community. We noticed a gap that the community doesn’t understand the positive transformation we go through in programmes such as Educo and ACTIVATE!”, says Linda.

Sihambela Phambili will be celebrating heritage by inviting old and young, parents, guardians, elders, adults to join young social change makers in celebration of their heritage and continuing the teachings across generations by hosting an event at the Elukhanyisweni Centre, NY 74 in Gugulethu, Cape Town. Follow this event on Facebook, Sihambela Phambili Heritage Event.

Sihambela Phambili (“lead and give back)” is a youth movement started in 2012 by youth who have through an EducoAfrica experience. EducoAfrica training programmes focuses on how young people can be active in their communities. Sihambela Phambili is a platform for youth that encourage them to own their potential to the fullest. Niki Alexander, Dumisa Thethiwe and Linda Mtshibe are part of the group of young people involved in the formation of Sihambela Phambili. 

However, how can youth achieve this if they do not have the support from their parents or the older generation? And it is simple – to simply believe in that young person, to believe that not only are they the future leaders but supporting them in the positive change they strive to make in their community in this country and also globally.

What are you doing to celebrate your heritage? Share your events, stories or conversations about heritage in your community to communications@localhost

A time to sing, a time to dance African Tales

In recent times, we have increasingly seen the narrative of development revolve around the economy and some or other form of industrialisation. This ignores the great value contributed to society through the arts. Not only can the arts keep the heritage of a nation intact, but it is also a valuable way of expressing and understanding the world.  And as history has taught us, the arts also has an important role to play in the quest for social justice. At the height of the struggle, artists such as Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela and Lucky Dube, amongst others used their art to not only to share the atrocity of apartheid with the world but also as an act of resistance.  In recent times, we have seen the emergence of groups such as the Power TREE Poetry Movement and artists such as Simphiwe Dana who do the same. This shows that art can evoke strong responses, be it joy, sorrow and it can even be used to restore our sense of humanity. 

Born in Mdantsane, Eastern Cape, Activator Athenkosi Annex Baba has always dreamt of helping people. Although in his earlier years, he always thought it would be through medicine, his passion led his to doing it through the arts. He explains that “there are stories, experiences and truths that can only be expressed through pictures, music, dance and stories”. He believes that all these have their place in creating positive change in society.

Athenkosi, who is now based in Khayelitsha, Cape Town, is part of African Tales – a network forum, for artists and arts organisations. Inspired by his interactions with young people, as well as his own life experiences, he has been tasked with co-ordinating the organisation’s events and youth discussions on arts and culture.

Since the organisation’s inception, it has grown in huge leaps. From a forum of four groups, it is now home to more than fifty groups and ten individual artists all of whom attend and fully participate in the programmes being offered. It has also grown from offering two programmes “Tales under the look-out Hill” and “Dance Stage Productions” to adding five more. All the programmes run by the organisation require the full participation of the youth involved. 

A milestone that the Activator is proud of is the manner in which the organisation has been able to shift the mindsets of young people. Within the forum, “they have truly come to use their power of making something where there was nothing”, he says. And it is this same drive that saw the organisation get the Khayelitsha Cock-Tale Arts Festival started. The festival, which is hosted by artists for artists has grown to be an annual event attracting many and its success has seen African Tales forming partnerships with other organisations, government departments and the business sector. 

The support shown by the enthusiastic youth, community leaders and the broader community means that the future of this organisation has no limits. 

A firm believer that young people need to be hands on in the decision making process, Athenkosi attributes the success of African Tales to “maintaining its objective of working with young people rather than conducting activities for them”. This is achieved through sparking the aspirations of youth and through authentic youth involvement in all the organisations programmes. This has allowed all involved to feel that they are heard and valued, that they are shaping the agenda of action and that they are making a contribution to other youth; their community and society at large.

At the presentation of the White Paper on Arts, Culture and Heritage; the then Deputy Minister of Arts, Culture, Science and technology said “Now is our time to sing, to dance, to paint, and to create. This is our right as citizens of South Africa”. 

Volunteer Day: The Beautiful Game

Activator Khaya Phenduka, was unsure about how he would spend his volunteer day and where. Being as passionate as he is about soccer, he just couldn’t find a way to figure out how his passion could be used for something greater than just playing soccer. After much reflection though, he realised that there are bigger lessons that can be learned from ‘the beautiful game’. For starters, like life a soccer match is something that can only happen when others are involved. It requires team spirit and collective effort, very much in the same way that correcting the ills in life need solidarity from others to overcome. 

It also dawned that in life, one’s networks are made up of different people – each with their own skills and contributions that they make in one’s life. The same applies in a game of soccer. Each player has their strengths and those are used trying to win the match and if this doesn’t happen, mistakes are looked back at and learned from. After many such deliberations in his mind, Khaya then decided he would spend his volunteer day with his team, that it would be about using the team’s practice to send a message that impacts players’ lives even beyond the practice session.

Training usually starts at 17h30 to 19h00 and is split into 4 sessions. The team starts with a warm-up, followed by physical training and the ‘ball work’, then stretching thereafter. So the volunteer day, which took place on the 1st of May 2013, was a very intensive training session instead of the usual. Khaya pushed the team physically, in an attempt to show that like when training, youth are often capable of much more than they realise and that it is often only discovered when pushing the boundaries. 

Soccer is something that this Activator always makes time for, even when his hours seem limited. Since his volunteer day, he has realised just what a powerful force the team is within the community. Training and match days have become days of encouragement. They are a space where information and advice are shared amongst them andl also a place where young people are kept away from negative influences. 

The team has since gone from strength to strength, even registering with the Atlantis Soccer League Association. Although they feel they have been unfairly treated by the Association, as a collective they intend to tackle it head first, with the same effort they are putting to changing their community for the better. 

An African example in global citizenship education

Injairu Kulundu, trainer and Western Cape team leader will be flying the ACTIVATE! flag high at the UNESCO Technical Consultation on Global Citizen Education in Seoul, Republic of Korea from 9 – 10 September 2013. She will be giving input on the value of connection in Global Citizenship Education using her experiences at ACTIVATE! as a basis.

UNESCO has been in the process of preparing a conceptual and operational framework for promoting global citizenship education at the global level, bringing together policy makers and educators as well as research communities from around the world. The meeting is jointly organised by UNESCO and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea.  

Meet our new Communications Officer

Nelisa Ngqulana joined ACTIVATE! during August 2013. One of the main objectives of her role is to tell South Africa what Activators are up to, how connecting through a network is helping shape changing across South Africa and identifying opportunities for media coverage for the different focus areas that Activators work in.

Should you require access to the ACTIVATE! branding for your event or material, please contact Nelisa on communications@localhost and she will assist with guidelines on how to apply the brand on your material. 

Please feel free to submit any ideas for media coverage that you may have or if you require assistance when contacted by media.

YOU(TH) can change things!

How you can help? We are looking for Activators who are willing to be our ambassadors and help with the recruitment campaign, either by inviting other young people in your networks to apply, be available for media interviews (and be ready to speak about what Activators are doing in your region), putting up posters, handing out flyers, send us a short video clip telling us how ACTIVATE! has helped shape your project or idea or what connections you have made with other Activators (use your cellphone! Nothing fancy required). If you can think, it will probably help.

We would like to grow the network and take it to a higher level in 2014. Please drop us an email on communications@localhost and let us know how you can help with recruitment in your region.

Watch our social networks for more information!

Young People: unedited, unscripted and unapologetic

Cathy Achilles and Keith Knoop met while they were church youth leaders in the Strand area, Western Cape. 

In 2008, Keith founded Tag Changers, an NGO Tag Changers that aims to inspire young people to empower themselves to change their communities. Cathy is a Project Manager and Administrator for Tag Changers. Currently, the organisation reaches more than 200 young people from communities in Strand, Western to as far as Upington in the Northern Cape. 

Cathy and Keith joined ACTIVATE! in 2013. “The idea for Youth Interpreter came about during the first module of the training programme. While we were doing an exercise about reflecting on the past, present and future, it struck home how many Activators in the room shared similar stories of loss. The last page of the magazine is called ‘we are because you were’ dedicated to a young life that has been lost.”

Through the collages for the ‘present’, Cathy and Keith saw the potential that young people have and the power to change South Africa.  The magazine aims to showcase this potential and what young people can achieve when they are active in their communities.

The process for collecting the content saw the team, Cathy, Keith and their other team members, Clint C Sparks and Reanetse Kolisang, immersing themselves within the Ocean View, Strand and Macassar communities. The team share their skills through workshops in the communities such as Keith running motivational speaking workshops and Clint doing creative writing with the youth. 

The 1st issue of Youth Interpreter was published on International Youth Day on 12 August 2013. The magazine was distributed to all who attended the Artscape Schools Arts Festival Gala in Cape Town. So far, 9000 copies distributed have been distributed across the Western Cape. YI will be launched online during September. 

The YI team is currently stationed at the Artscape Resource Centre as part of the Artscape Resource Centre Creative Capacity Programme (a two-year Organisational Capacity Building Programme, headed by Ukhona Mlandu).The team has expanded, Kelly Lee Smith, has been employed as an intern and assists with the administration of the magazine. 

YI is published under a registered private company, Youth Interpreter (Pty) Ltd, which is owned by Cathy and Keith and the rest of the team.

In the meantime, show your support by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter