Youngsters helping others to cope with life’s harsh realities

2014-12-04 00:00

A COMMUNITY-BASED project aimed at helping disadvantaged youth has arrived in Howick.

Launched in late 2003 by Colin Bishop, the Reach for Life project is a programme that teaches disadvantaged youth life skills through peer educators.

Deemed the “Midlands Youth Transformation Project”, the programme was originally created as a preventive measure against crime and the HIV/Aids pandemic.

“We are a registered NGO working in schools to set values as we feel they dissipate over the years,” Bishop said.

According to Bishop, South Africa is losing “between two to three aircraft’s worth of people a day to HIV/Aids”.

“There seems to be a break-down in family and the education system in rural schools due to poverty and unemployment.”

Bishop said the idea for the project came from a similar project in Uganda.

“Uganda used this project and managed to reduce their HIV infection rate radically so we went there and asked how they did this.”

Uganda’s first lady Janet Museveni headed the project, Bishop said, and told him since so many children had lost parents, they introduced a set of morals using the Bible and peer educators.

Bishop said the project would find young, bright, unemployed people and train them to go into local schools and teach the children values that would lead them away from a life of crime and poverty.

“This is not a hit-and-run operation. We need to engage the kids and work with them on a sustainable and regular basis so they will buy into these values,” said Bishop.

Kwahlathi’s Inkosi Kunene said he invited Bishop and his team to work in his community a few years ago.

“He did a wonderful job helping the youth with the Reach for Life project.

“With peer educators, the children were taught how to behave and deal with ­challenges,” said Kunene.

The community noticed a significant change in the children once the project started.

“It was a long programme and there was a lot of change. Even parents saw a change in the way children behaved,” said Kunene.

The project is set to start in mid-January if funding allows and will send peer educators to two schools in Howick, two in ­Mpophomeni and two in Lidgetton.

• chelsea.pieterse@witness.com

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