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Changing the Story

Posted by Martin Keat

The Bishop Simeon Trust is committed to assuring that children and young adults in South Africa are able to challenge and conquer those obstacles in their lives that prevent them from accessing education and assuring that they can  make the most of the potential they possess to thrive and build a positive future. We try to do this in two main ways: firstly, by supporting those organisations within the communities we serve to be strong enough to support children who need their help; secondly, by empowering children and young people to have the representation and voice to influence and inform those services which are set to respond to their needs.

Over the last year we have been working closely with the Centre for World Cinemas and Digital Cultures at the University of Leeds to help develop a new approach to empowering young people that uses creative media to capture and share their experience, message and voice. We have done this by developing a new model of interaction with young people that commences through the development of grassroots comics - simple four frame cartoons that allow them to capture an experience or issue within their lives that they want people to hear about. This initial intervention came from our partnership with World Comics India, through which inspirational founder Sharad Sharma came and trained our partners Themba Interactive in late 2015. The cartoons themselves can act as a valuable campaigning tool, often bridging barriers of language and literacy to encourage debate and discussion within communities where they are shared. 

It is this that we have built on further through our partnership with the University of Leeds - with the idea in mind that as well as standing alone the cartoons themselves could act as the basis for the development of storyboards for both the forum theatre approaches which our partners Themba Interactive have such expertise in, but also in the development of short films that could reach out to other audiences important to the children and young people. It was with this in mind that Professor Paul Cooke from the University traveled to Tsakane in February of this year to pilot the approach in mind with the Peer Educators within our partners Tshepo Hope - the following link tells the story of that workshop: Pilot Workshop - Tshepo Hope February 2016.  


The outcome of this pilot was that we had something powerful which could help children and young people to influence and inform the common narrative around their lives that is the basis for so much government policy and charitable support. This led us towards planning the next step in piloting the approach further with Tshepo Hope, enabling the Peer Educators themselves to develop the stories, comics and films with groups of children. To this end the University of Leeds has committed their support to provide a team of talented student interns to travel to South Africa at the end of this month to support a workshop where we can do exactly this. This most recent short film allows them to explain exactly what they will be doing to support the extension of this exciting new approach to help empower children and young people:Leeds University Interns June 2016

We will keep sharing their films and experience with you over the coming months. You can also follow their progress directly as we will share live updates via our social media channels - so keep an eye on our Facebook page or our Twitter feed and look out for the hashtag #ChangingtheStory. 

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A big part of our work here at the Bishop Simeon trust is committed to assuring that children and young adults in South Africa are able to challenge and conquer those obstacles in their lives that prevent them from accessing education and assuring that they can  make the most of the potential they possess to thrive and build a positive future.