Approximately 350 young people from gang-ridden communities across Cape Town will benefit from the Whitaker Peace Development Initiative (WPDI) launched on Thursday 14 November in Bridgetown, Athlone.The community learning centre is situated in Tarentaal Street, Bridgetown.The Hollywood actor and founder of the WPDI, Forest Whitaker, attended the launch and said the peace programme will promote youth, peace and entrepreneurship on the Cape Flats.Whitaker says the centre in Bridgetown comes three months after the launch of the Youth Peacemaker Network – the flagship programme of the WPDI.“The success of the WPDI Youth Peacemaker Network lies in the trust that the programme creates in the community. The youth we train are from the community and work for it. “Our programme becomes what they make of it. Our approach will be the same on the Cape Flats, where we will be providing young women and men with tools and resources that they can put to use in their daily lives,” he says.The five-year programme - in partnership with French bank BNP Paribas and their local subsidiary, consumer finance business RCS – works to support 45 Capetonians to educate the 350 young people. They will become social development ambassadors who can mediate conflicts and foster peace after completing the programme.The youth on the Cape Flats face violence every day, and being immersed in these conditions all the time, makes it seem almost impossible to change – and certainly not without support, says programme director of the WPDI, Dr Chance Chagunda. Whitaker adds: “As you will know, like war and unrest in other parts of the world, gangsterism and gang violence on the Cape Flats is brought about by complex political, social and economic factors. Yet, when people are free to choose, they will always choose peace,” he says.Before the press conference in Athlone, Whitaker attended press conferences at Cedar High in Rocklands, Mitchell’s Plain, and the RCS Call Centre where he spoke to learners and staff. The 45 trainers are from areas most affected by gang violence in Cape Town and were chosen in August, based on their experience and ability to act as agents of change in their communities.“Over the next three years, the programme will help empower approximately 2 400 youth to become leaders and champions to address problems in their schools and communities,” Whitaker says.The mission of the WPDI is to empower young men and women living in vulnerable areas to become leaders, peacemakers and entrepreneurs in their communities and to bring about peace and stability.The programme has been rolled out in communities impacted by conflict in other parts of the word, namely; South Sudan, Uganda, America and Mexico. He hopes to have the same success in Cape Town as elsewhere.Also in attendance were the Mayor of Cape Town Dan Plato, and Antoine Sire, head of engagement at BNP Paribas.