SMALL INNOVATIONS, BIG CHANGES

How could a lunchbox change a life? How could a rural matriculant know the sky is the limit when nobody has given her career guidance where she lives?

As 2013 goes into full swing, a group of young innovators are riding high on the acknowledgement of their brilliant ideas which could benefit whole communities.

At the event late last year, organised by civil society organization Activate, young innovators showcased their ideas and projects based on a principle of public interest. Those present, including well-known television and education personality Pat Pillai, said they had been ‘blown away’ by the scope of ideas and projects presented by young people who came from rural areas and urban areas alike.

The winning project, which received a start-up cash injection to begin implementation, is called The Lunchbox Project and was chosen by the panel of judges because it was an easy-to-implement intervention that would nonetheless change the lives of many school-going children. Tebello Rampo, the young woman behind the innovation, said, “We have seen a decline in the number of children who queue for food that has been prepared for them as they are sometimes teased for having to do so. My idea was to design a conventional lunchbox to be carried by every learner at school. This product will restore the school’s unity by having all learners carry their lunch box and eating at school. As the learners will all drop their lunch boxes at the kitchen while they are in classrooms nobody will know who brought food from home and who got food that was made for them in the kitchen.”

Other winning projects included an initiative to build postboxes in townships where correspondence goes unread and litters the streets as the postal services has nowhere to put it, an initiative to bring career guidance to rural youths who often lack the social capital to think beyond working in the civil service, and a social media app that connects young people who are working towards bettering their communities.

Speaking about the training that the young ‘activators’ have undergone, facilitator Injairu Kulundu, said, “It is inspiring to witness how the conversations move from a pessimistic view to one that opens up opportunities. What gives me hope is the feeling that we can boldly and collectively choose to move forward together.” She added that a major challenge for young people was “negotiating and navigating a very persistent and rigid system that blocks out the efforts that young people make” but how important it is to craft a vision and have resilience.

Nobontu Webster, who was the master of ceremonies at the event, said that the gathering of young change-makers had given her hope that the “sacrifices of those during the struggle had not been in vain, and that the young ‘activators’ who are in the programme are not just dreaming about change but are activating it.”

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