It’s a Saturday morning and I’m in a taxi with a loud and energetic group of young people, some of whom I have never met before. We are making our way to an ostrich farm in Philadelphia for our orientation. We are having an orientation day to introduce our new group of young people to each other, to the ProSeed (youth programme) team, and to how Mamelani gets down. This is my first time on orientation since joining Mamelani, so this is equally new to me as it is to the young people – and my nerves are showing.
We pull up at the farm and the young people quickly start taking Boomerangs and selfies. The geography and scenery are gorgeous. But I think the growing connections between the young people will be even more gorgeous. It is crazy what a 30 min taxi ride can do for strangers who really are willing to engage with each other.
The day is filled with one obstacle after another. The first obstacle is funny; it makes you look as if you are walking on water but actually, you’re just walking on roving poles. I stand on the sidelines while laughing hysterically and cheering on the young people but Leroy, the programme manager, catches me trying hard not to embarrass myself and invites me to participate. I, of course, join in. At Mamelani we believe that if we make young people do it, then we ought to do it too. The young people didn’t laugh instead they cheered me on. The cliques amongst the young people I noticed at the office before we got into the taxi are slowly disintegrating and most of them are connecting.
While the ProSeed team was preparing for orientation one of the things I heard loudly and very clearly was that we should stay together as a whole group. But I find myself walking with just two of the young ladies because I want to know where their heads are. We start talking about how independent I appear to be to them. I respond by saying, “I’ve learned that being independent is recognising our interdependence.” One of the girls says something so amazing in response, “the most successful communities are the ones who interact”. I’m shook. They carry on talking and my mind is reeling at this young lady’s wisdom.
After rope climbing, fun in the mud pool, dancing in the sprinkler, we are finally at checkout time and I am exhausted. I take a moment to think about all that I have seen and heard. I think about the sheer strength and determination the young people showed today. Young people have a way of extracting things in me in a way that only know they know how. But my most important take away for the day was the sentiment that most successful communities are the ones who interact – I will be sitting with this for a while.
By Terri-Lynn Smith (ProSeed Youth Development: Youth Transitions facilitator)