Director's Blog: A South Africa transformed by youth

Posted by Martin Keat

I was in South Africa working with our friends there last week. I am always mindful of the extra work that I bring to them when I arrive. As usual I was offered a great welcome and fantastic support. I was very grateful to them and remain in awe of their passion and skill.

As Director I don’t think I get to do the most exciting and interesting bits of work that the Bishop Simeon Trust does. That doesn’t diminish the importance of assuring that our finances are in order, fundraising is on track, we remain accountable to our supporters and we are well managed.

However, when I see the interaction between the officers working face to face, elbow to elbow, with the children and young people we support then I must admit to feeling a little jealous! My visits at least allow me to tap into this a little and make sure that I am accountable to those children and young people who need our help the most.

It was very clear to me that there had been some big political shifts in South Africa since I was last there at the end of 2017. It is fair to say that as the new President, Cyril Ramaphosa, has a big job on his hands to advance the nation building project that has dominated the vision and rhetoric of South Africa leaders for two decades. Hearing the messages from the young people we support it is clear that this job is far from complete.

It is our wish to complement this process, empowering vulnerable children and young people to become the leaders of tomorrow, contributing to the development of the nation as active, engaged and informed citizens. This process and our role in it has been central to the recent review of our strategy and business plan for the Trust, led by the experts on our Board of Trustees. Again, it may not sound like the most exciting bit of what we do, but it is very important – and I’m proud to say that it is informed by the voices of the children and young people we aim to support.

Alongside this during my visit to South Africa I supported the Board of our partners Themba Interactive to go through a similar exercise. It was very exciting to be part of that too.

As a result of this over the next few months we will be rolling out our youth leadership programme with eight community partners in South Africa. We’re very grateful to the Centre for World Cinemas and Digital Cultures at the University of Leeds who have secured funding from the Global Challenge Research Fund to help us to do this. We have a great partnership.

We’ll be working with eight Youth Committees who will develop their individual and collective campaigns to assure that government support is continued for the Isibindi Safe Park programme which is absolutely vital to them. They will be using a combination of creative arts to deliver their campaigns, from grassroots comics to short films. It’s an approach that we have already seen have impact on communities we work with – all led by young people. I will be back there in June for their campaign launch – I will make sure that I share that with you.

Alongside this I will also be pushing forward with our fundraising so that we can support the passion and endeavour of our partners and the young people we work with. If just 1,000 people gave us £15 each month then we would be well on our way to being able to sustainably deliver the support we provide until it is no longer needed.

If you do not already support us then I would humbly ask that you considered joining us and helping young people like Dimakatso transform their lives. Thankyou, M.  

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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.