After the WC final

2010-06-11 00:00

THE World Cup kick off is today and many questions have been asked about the legacy of the World Cup for South Africa and the broader African continent. The hosting of the tournament has certainly added impetus to hundreds of already existing projects, whether they be in transport, education, health, justice or sports development. In South Africa — The Good News we have become involved in a legacy project which reaches out to the poorest sections of our communities with a particular focus on community upliftment.

Since the inception of the nonprofit organisation, the Foundation for a Safe South Africa (FSSA), SA Good News has been involved in promoting a positive approach to making South Africa safer. What follows is the story of the first of a number of initiatives that are being launched by FSSA to make our country a safer place in which to live.

The Youth Zones Network has been established to give effect to the legacy of 2010. On the day of this historic football event which holds great significance for Africa­, a group of people and organisations are working hard to ensure that some of the excitement of 2010 is transformed into a sustainable commitment to social­ development. The programme currently operates in 11 disadvantaged areas, one in each South African province and one site in Zimbabwe and Mozambique. These pilot sites include Phuthaditjhaba, Upington, Eva- ton­ North, Somerset West, Mogwase­, Umzimkhulu, Mutare, Manica, Somerset East, Siyabuswa and Jane Furse.

A collaborative initiative involving FSSA, the South African Local Organising Committee (SALOC), the Embassy of the Netherlands and the Institute for Democracy in South Africa (Idasa), has given birth to this ambitious endeavour.

The purpose is threefold:

• to make an impact at grass-roots level;

• to form a community where local youths get in contact with, and learn from, their peers; and

• to celebrate cultural diversity.

At each of the 11 youth zones there are three main projects, football, computer literacy and lifeskills. The football focus aims to build the capacity of grass-root teams and support them with material­, coaching and organisational growth.

The IT focus is to learn how to use a computer and provide participants with Internet access so that they can have the educational benefits of the Internet, often in areas where there are no libraries or access to information.

The lifeskills focus is on all attributes that make an individual successful in life — communication, conflict resolution, teamwork, responsibility, health and leadership.

In addition, each community is encouraged to launch three organic projects with their own initiative. These small projects include netball teams, cultural groups, HIV/Aid groups, gymnastics, English courses, entrepreneurship and more. The relevance of these projects is to create an enabling environment where youths have the self-belief and confidence to take risks and be creative.

Numerous partners have joined forces to ensure that there will be a legacy after the World Cup — Torque IT, Kelly Group, Microsoft, Convergence Partners, South African­ Breweries, Amalgamated Beverage Industries, Khulisa, Fevertree­ and Heartlines.

Making a sustainable difference in the lives of vulnerable youths is critical; underpinned by the belief that no one is born a criminal. The challenge is to prevent those who are born into victim circumstances from becoming offenders. Making choice available in these circumstances can transform lives away from crime to real and legitimate opportunity.

Project leader Roelf Meyer is passionate about this approach: “We promote safety by proactively investing in society, by stopping crime before it happens,” he says.

How exactly is football used as an agent for social change?

“The football teams are what counts. It’s not about just kicking a ball, it’s about the social relations inherent in a team, the family dynamic that provides energy, support and accountability. This is why we use football and even netball teams and teach them to become change agents,” says project co-ordinator Schalk van Heerden.

The approach is built on a relational model where friendships form the foundation for sustainable actions and programmes.

The progamme operates in the first sites where LOC built high-level synthetic football pitches. Consequently, the improved football infrastructure is accompanied by improved human capacity­ and skills.

Once real-life friendships have been established and computer literacy is in place, the focus shifts to a virtual community, where besides Skype, Facebook and e-mail, participants interact on the www. youthzones.co.za website. There they are encouraged to blog, upload photos, chat and share stories­ of both hope and of failure.

“Any person from any place can join. It is interesting knowing that we are not alone in our struggles and dreams,” says Nelson Veremo, one of the website members. Participants learn practical things from one another, says Doctor­ Mabila from Idasa.

It is our hope that when the World Cup starts in Brazil in 2014, people will ask what legacy the South African World Cup left behind.

Our answer will be that through the involvement of thousands of South Africans, rich, poor, black or white, in the Youth Zone Network we will be able to show that shared humanity, mutual learning and care can deliver the diversity and hope of a rainbow nation.

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