Last week at Mile High Youth Corps we had some very exciting visitors. We were fortunate enough to meet four individuals from South Africa who are focused on developing youth in their country. As part of the International Visitor Leadership Program these individuals sat down at our headquarters office and listened in about how we implement change here in our Denver Community and how this work has impacted the lives of our corpsmembers.
The challenges faced by South African youth are staggering. 51% of youth are unemployed and, of that, 36% are unemployable, having no training or skills to acquire work. In addition, one in four youth in South Africa have been infected with HIV/AIDS. Despite these obstacles, Mr. Malusi Mazibuko, Ms. Annette Steyn, Ms. Mosidi Charmaine Thokoane and Mr. Brian Zondo have made it their mission to improve the lives of the youth in their country.
Mr. Malusi Mazibuko is the Director for the KwaZulu Youth Empowerment Project. He developed Durban’s first orphans and vulnerable children’s program for youth who had tested HIV+ but have no support system. He mobilized youth in the community to participate in clubs and gave them a forum to speak about social issues that they could not discuss at home. As a result, the community started a youth awards program to recognize youth community participation. Mr. Mazibuko later founded the KZN Youth Empowerment Organization which is staffed by committed youth volunteers.
Ms. Annette Steyn is a member of the South African National Parliament for the Democratic Alliance, South Africa’s main opposition party. Having spent her life in rural areas, Ms. Steyn focuses on expanding opportunities for rural youth, women and others. On her family farm, she teaches progressive practices that have improved the lives of farm workers in the community. Her involvement in her community is widely praised and she hopes to learn more about community and national service in the U.S. to further help rural youth.
Ms. Mosidi Charmaine Thokoane is a faculty coordinator at the Centre for the Study of AIDS at the University of Pretoria. She focuses on coordinating, managing and implementing programs for HIV/AIDS education, conducts counseling at the Student Health Clinic and organizes student-led activities such as student forums and seminars at the Centre. Ms. Thokoane has advocated for an increase in women’s and girl’s access to health services with parliamentarians in Botswana and led a delegation of students to work in clinics providing counseling and training for HIV/AIDS. She manages a training program for the Department of Health in Gauteng Province in South Africa and is a member of UNICEF Regional Inter Agency Task Team on orphans and vulnerable children affected by and infected with HIV/AIDS.
Mr. Brian Zondo is the Deputy Director for the City of Johannesburg. As the author of the city’s Young Entrepreneurship Policy, Mr. Zondo focuses on giving youth the basic economic and business skills needed to become entrepreneurs. Through this policy, the city’s agenda now includes establishing mentorship programs between successful businesses and interested youth. In addition, Johannesburg is now working towards an international exchange program for young entrepreneurs.
Along with other corpsmembers, I got the chance to talk with them about how we’ve learned leadership skills here at MHYC, how we feel we are positively impacting our community and about how we plan to continue this work in the future. What a great opportunity!
~Annie Matouka, Conservation Alumni Mentor