"Young people should be at the forefront of global change and innovation. Empowered, they can be key agents for development and peace. If, however, they are left on society’s margins, all of us will be impoverished. Let us ensure that all young people have every opportunity to participate fully in the lives of their societies." – Kofi Annan
PROJECT LUNGISELA - INDEPENDENT LIVING SKILLS PROGRAM FOR YOUTH AT RISK
Project Lungisela is an Independent Living Skills Program that works specifically with youth who have grown up in the Homestead's Children's Home in Khayelitsha. The objective is to prepare these youth, who have very few support structures achieve a sustainable livelihood and reintegrate them into the community. Mamelani works with them for an 18-month period prior to leaving the Children’s Home at age 18 and offers continued support once they have returned to their families and communities. This ongoing support assists the youth in making a smooth transition from institutional care back into the community and equips them with the necessary skills to live independently. A core component of the program is to prepare the youth for work so they are able to sustain themselves once they have left the home.
Due to poverty and abuse at home, all too many children in South Africa leave home and find themselves living on the street. Some are fortunate to find refuge in Children's Homes where they are given food, clothes, an education and a chance to rebuild their lives. The current situation is that at the age of 18 years, the state withdraws their funding, effectively forcing these individuals to vacate the Children’s Home and return to their communities. At this stage it is hoped that these young men would have the education and life skills necessary to access tertiary education or find employment. The reality, however, is quite different.
Having lived on the street for some time, their schooling is incomplete and their education and job training options are extremely limited. With little education and, therefore, very few job options, these young adults are forced to return to their families, who, in some cases, have not resolved the problems that caused them to leave home in the first place. Aside from returning to a difficult environment, they are expected to support both themselves and their families. It is for this reason that, even after years of stability at a children's home, many of these young adults are forced to return to the streets. Project Lungisela is our attempt to prevent this vicious cycle from continuing.
The program offers weekly life skills workshops, personal development, career guidance, experiential outdoor learning, skills development, internships and job placement, along with ongoing support and mentorship. We assess the youth when they enter the program, and set objectives, with them, for their growth.
Life skills workshops
Wilderness camps and outings
Transition support including assistance with accommodation and family issues
Work preparation including career guidance, skills training, internship placements, mentoring
Life skills workshops +
Life skills workshops are run twice a week from the Children’s Home in Khayelitsha. The graduates (those who have left the children`s home) and the seniors (those who are preparing to leave) meet separately in order to be able to focus on issues relevant to their situation. Issues covered include personal development processes, communication skills, social skills, conflict resolution, money management, time management, health awareness (including sexual health) and goal setting. The workshops are run on Tuesdays for “seniors” (those who are still living at the Children’s Home) and on Thursdays for “graduates” (those who have already left the Children’s Home). Each candidate in the program is also offered one-on-one sessions, to deal with personal and sensitive issues that they do not feel comfortable raising in the group. This also offers the facilitators a space to affirm and build on their individual strengths.
One participant shared that "Project Lungisela is helping me to improve my life and supporting me in becoming independent and successful. Being part of the program has given me the chance to talk to other youth who are facing the same issues and get the support I need".
Wilderness Camps and Outings +
Youth are offered the opportunity to go out into nature to embark on a journey of self-discovery. Wilderness therapy techniques are used to offer the youth an opportunity to confront their fears and to overcome them. Participants are provided with the opportunity to process some of their difficult experiences in a safe environment. The camps also offer time and space for them to bond with one another and develop closer relationships with each other. The educational outings expose the youth to social activities that they would not otherwise have access to.
"At the camp I learnt that if you believe in yourself you can do something. I never climbed the mountain before, so I felt like it was another world."
"I learnt that if you want to survive as a person, you need to believe in yourself."
"What I have learnt in the camp is being leader, to be a strong leader amongst the group."
"My most significant experience is when I learnt how to build a raft and to find directions on the map. I also learnt to walk a long distance that I had never walked before in my entire life. I also learnt about how to be safe at the mountains. How to manage my emotions and my temper when I have been troubled by my brothers."
"I learnt to face my fears, to be calm and not frightened, to relax."
Preparation for transition +
Support is provided for the transition from the Children’s Home to the community. This is focused on acquiring suitable accommodation to ensure that the each individual has a safe and comfortable place to live. Time is also spent building relationships with family and the wider community, strengthening each individual’s support network. Much of this work is done through home visits and community outreach.
Preparation for work and the internship program +
Key to independent living is the ability to support oneself. For this reason, a core component of the program is ensuring that the youth are employable. Time is spent identifying their career path and skills training that will be necessary, accessing such skills, acquiring interview and job-seeking skills, writing CVs, opening bank accounts, as well as preparation, including coping skills for the work environment. Once they are ready to enter the working world, they are offered a 3-6 month internship. The internship process offers the young men the opportunity to acquire the skills and experience needed to cope in the work environment and maintain employment. This process allows them to enter the working world with support and offers them a chance to prove themselves to their employees. Leading up to the internship and during the internship, youth attend weekly support group sessions to process the challenges they are facing in finding work, or the issues they are facing at the workplace. This ongoing mentorship is key to successful placements. A successful internship process ensures that they leave their internship with a good reference letter – key to finding employment. At best, they are offered a permanent job with the host company where they are doing their internship.
"I have enjoyed making new friendships at work. I have learnt that I am able to adapt easily – to new situations. This internship has helped me become more confident. Now I am able to work anywhere." – Vusumzi Ngaki (qualified chef, currently employed at The Cape Peninsula Hotel)
"What I enjoy the most is the people that I work with and the friendships that they have for me. I have learnt to cook and to make a lot of stuff. I have learnt that I can stand up for myself. I can be with people that I am not used to being with as equals and I can make friendships with them. The internship has given me more confidence and it has helped me to look after myself and my family. It has also improved my relationship with my family as I am able to contribute and my girlfriend’s parents respect me now and are always nice to me because I am working." - Gcobani Menze (Currently employed at Knead Bakery)
"I’m so grateful that I have this opportunity to prove myself I want to make the best of it and I know that I have a responsibility toward myself and the other guys in the program" - Lukhanyo Mjoka (Qualified chef, currently employed at Knead Bakery)
"I have learnt that there is nothing that I cannot do. I can work with anyone and speak with people that I don’t know." – Sandile Mhi (successfully completed an internship at the Waterfront Boat Company).
"If I can attend school, I will be a role model. It will enable me to persuade as many other children to go back to school. This will help them to be confident and have the realization that everything is possible in life." – Ephraim Ntlamo, currently studying at ICON college.
Career and Employment Assistance +
One of the key components of an Independent Living Program is helping youth make the transition into the workplace and helping them retain employment. Project Lungisela facilitates weekly workshops to equip the youth with the specific knowledge and skills needed to find and retain employment. Topics include workplace attire, understanding the chain of command, dealing with criticism, accepting supervision, working as part of a team etc. These sessions are also used as an opportunity for youth to offer support and advice to one another as they share their obstacles and challenges in the workplace. Professionals from different sectors are also invited to deliver talks and share their experiences with the youth. This support has been imperative in helping youth progressively move through the hurdles they face in the workplace. Project Lungisela staff also meet with employers on a regular basis to track progress and discuss various ways of developing youth employed by them.
DEVELOPING THE PROJECT LUNGISELA MODEL
Foster Care Pilot Program +
Mamelani Projects, in partnership with The Homestead Projects for Street Children, has been asked to pilot a program for the Department of Social Development in Khayelitsha. The aim of the pilot program is to offer support for 18 months to 10 foster care children who are about to turn 18, in an effort to make them more independent and, ultimately, able to support themselves. Mamelani’s role in the partnership is to bring the Independent Living Skills model we have developed through Project Lungisela and adapt it to the needs of the youth living in foster care. We offer life skills sessions, career guidance, mentorship, skills training and internships – with the hope that the youth are more equipped to access work once they have left school. The pilot is being implemented from February 2010 to July 2011. Participating in the pilot program allows us to gain experience and knowledge in working with foster care youth and their foster families. It also gives us the opportunity to further develop our model and see how it can be adapted to meet the needs of children living in alternative care, and who may not face the challenges faced by youth who have grown up on the street.
We will be sharing developments, including challenges faced and lessons learnt, through our website, so if you are interested – watch this space!
Since inception Project Lungisela has provided support to over 60 young men. There are currently 20 senior and 25 graduate youths taking part in the 2009/10 program and it is estimated that the total number in 2010/11 will be 45. Since the inception of the Internship Program in 2009, x individuals have had access to internship placements and x have been employed full time in their chosen field of work.
Of the 25 youth who have left the Children’s Home in the last 3 years, 23 are positively engaged through the program. Eight of them are employed while the rest are either completing their schooling, in internships, learnerships or skills training programs.
"The Homestead is immensely grateful to Mamelani for continuing to support the youth in our Children’s Home during the year before they leave, and after they have left our care. We do not have the capacity to help them through this very difficult transition, because our focus has to be on the younger children who are continuously joining our projects, and it is often not age-appropriate for them to remain in residential care. Without Mamelani’s support, many of them would end up back on the streets. The skills training and further education that is provided helps them to go on to make a living for themselves, but equally important is the emotional support that they receive. Our partnership is of great value to these young men" – Sandra Morreira, Director, The Homestead (Projects for Streetchildren)