IkamvaYouth - the future is in your hands

It’s our first full day in Johannesburg, and about half of our group has arrived now. First thing this morning, our wonderful hosts went out and bought us Shaobing Youtiao and warm soy milk for breakfast. Mmm… Fantastic! How blessed we are.

We then drove out to Tembisa. Talk about change in scenery.

Tembisa is one of the townships originally formed to house black Africans evicted from Johannesburg as a result of apartheid. Although apartheid ended in 1994, there are still many issues of extreme socioeconomic disparity that plague the region. Child mortality rates are high; teen pregnancy is the norm; many children are abandoned by their parents and, if they are lucky, left to be cared for by their grandmother or aunt or uncle; families of 10+ people are rarely supported by more than a single working member; these same families often live in tiny, single-room shacks constructed of cardboard and corrugated sheet metal… It’s no wonder only about 10% make it to university. The situation is quite bleak, to say the least. (Keep in mind, what I’m calling “the situation” is reality for millions of people worldwide.)

However, we met some amazing people at the IkamvaYouth Center in Ebony Park, who are doing really inspiring work. Johannesburg Tzu Chi has recently partnered with IkamvaYouth to supply food so the learners don’t have to study on an empty stomach, and to provide academic tutoring and humanity education. IkmavaYouth essentially provides school tutoring for kids living in the townships. What’s interesting (and quite genius) is the learners are the ones who dictate the curriculum. They bring their homework or whatever else they need help with, and the tutors fill in the gaps. This guarantees the learners are motivated. The tutors also share a similar background with the learners. The tutors are only a few years older than the learners, and they generally come from the same townships. This ensures that the tutors are familiar with the current school curriculum and can relate to the learners on a personal level. It was so wonderful to see so many young people who have beaten the odds and returned home to help others achieve their goals as well. The results speak for themselves. Last year, over 70% of IkamvaYouth learners went on to tertiary education. Tertiary education opens the door for better much paying jobs, and therefore, the chance to pull their whole family out of poverty.

I’m so excited to return in a couple weeks. We helped with the food distribution today, but next time we’ll be able to interact with the kids some more through school tutoring. They all love our “American accents.” =] The rest of our US team arrives in the morning, so stay tuned!

—Tiffany Pan

Posted by The Power of 5 - South Africa · Aug 8, 2011