The second cohort of youth selected to be a part of the National Youth Resilience Initiative (NYRI), completed their training at the end of August 2023. The Mpumalanga cohort training took place from the 28 August to 1 September, bringing together 25 youth community leaders. This group opened the training by describing resilience as “Mafavuka” which refers to the ability to get back up when you fall!
The five-day program kicks off a six-month training process intended to promote psychosocial well-being and resilience. The programme structure begins by delving into one's self-identity, reflection of the present and learning from one's past. The vulnerability of the first day is the foundation of the safe and authentic space carried through the entire training. Training components such as the ‘River of Life’ and ‘Biopoem’ immerse the youth into a reflective state, in which they acknowledge how far they have come and where they see themselves. This is a revelation of the resilience exhibited by the youth before they could even attach the word to their experiences, and an opportunity for them to be proud of themselves for how far they have come.
Day 2 moved beyond the self, into the community. The day opened with a dialogue session in which they unpacked concepts of gender, race and class. In a room of 25 young people, these concepts were identified as not only being interconnected but also highly complex and not to be analysed with a brash carelessness, with participant Bongane Motha noting that all three concepts come with unspoken expectations attached to them that often track back to cultural and societal practices. ‘Systems Thinking’ and ‘Community Mapping’ are both exercises on unpacking problems or creating solutions by identifying relevant role players in the context of the challenge. Community assets were identified as ward councillors, the press, or built form such as museums and sports grounds. Some of the artists in the room identified these as potential places in which they could perform their art. The exercises help participants understand that real-life situations tend not to be entirely clear and simple. At times, role players are not so easy to identify and reach; however, the practice of systems thinking and community mapping, help participants to hopefully use a strategic approach to intervention design.
This theme continues into Day 3, where the youth look at their relationships. Through the ‘Equality Wheel’ the youth looked at the role they can play in improving their relationships, the elements of their relationships they should be more grateful for, in essence, the roles and responsibilities involved in sustaining meaningful relationships. One of the participants, Thabang Moropa, reflected on how he often had not identified the responsibilities he holds in some of his relationships, and moving forward will now be more intentional about this. To close off the day, the youth were introduced to ‘Civic Education’. Civic Education refers to the political, practical, and theoretical aspects of citizenship, and only by truly understanding the roles, responsibilities, and rights of each person or system in the societal structure, can one truly be an active and informed citizen.
This cohort of NYRI Ambassadors exhibited such high spirits and maintained a hunger for knowledge and determination through the week’s training. When it came time for them to create a vision for themselves and their communities, the same themes came across. Embedded in the current work they already do in their communities through youth programs, sports, and more, they created tangible and certainly attainable goals for them to achieve.
We closed off the training with a celebration. The youth created a play, wrote poems, performed a song, choreographed a dance, and shared motivational words, as a lesson on some of the learnings they took from training. The talents they themselves have worked so hard to master can only be described as awe-striking. “Fruitful” “Empowering” “Creative” “Electrifying” “Visionary” and “Fun” are just some of the words the new Ambassadors decided to close off the training with.