Chrysalis Academy gives young people hope

2017-06-20 18:17
Chrysalis Academy trainers Mongezi Phama and Sonwabile Puwani attend the academy's exhibition at the Artscape Centre. (Jenni Evans, News24)

Chrysalis Academy trainers Mongezi Phama and Sonwabile Puwani attend the academy's exhibition at the Artscape Centre. (Jenni Evans, News24)

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Cape Town - Western Cape safety MEC Dan Plato commended the province's Chrysalis Academy in Cape Town on Tuesday for giving young people a chance to change their lives through a three-month intensive personal development course.

"The Chrysalis Academy lies very close to my heart," said Plato at the students' first photographic and art exhibition, hosted at the Artscape Centre in honour of Youth Month.

"It plays a major, major, role in the lives of so many youngsters from the [Cape] Flats and the rest of the province," said Plato of the R9m a year programme aimed at youths aged between the ages of 18 and 25.

Surrounded by striking black and white photographs, colourful paintings and well-framed landscapes, Plato said the live-in academy is proving so popular that there are demands for similar facilities as far afield as Beaufort West and Oudtshoorn.

The academy aims to help young people avoid crime and gangsterism and to give them the skills to avoid being drawn into destructive habits and situations.

Long waiting list

Chrysalis Academy Profile

It provides instruction on physical and mental well-being, proper nutrition, conflict resolution, life skills, and leadership skills. This is combined with training in skills that can be used to either start a business or enter an internship such as hairdressing, cooking, carpentry, public safety, child and youth care, and sports coaching.

Applicants with a minimum of Grade 9 and no criminal record can apply for the initiative of the Western Cape cabinet, but competition for places is tough with a waiting list of at least 800 people.

To balance the physicality and hands-on training, the students also do yoga, Tai Chi, art, poetry, journaling and meditation to improve their sense of well-being.

There is also counselling to help them heal from issues that they faced before they were accepted to the programme and to help with effective parenting.

Plato said a small stipend is also paid to the students, a benefit particularly appreciated by the young mothers who worry about keeping up with their child care responsibilities while at the academy.

For some, it has also been an opportunity to awaken a skill that would have gone wasted for lack of opportunity.

One of those people is Sonwabile Puwani, who entered the academy five years ago as a student and who was then offered a job as a youth instructor.

The arts bug had already bitten him before joining the academy when he did a film editing course in Cradock, progressed to engineering graphic design, designing car interiors, and even a trip to Sweden for a course.

"It's a nice experience, and I grab all the opportunities that come my way,'' said Puwani modestly as visitors to the exhibition admired his work.

Regimented structure

His sharp eye as a photographer was nurtured in a programme at the academy started by well-known photographer and academic Dr Don Pinnock, with students getting the benefit of old hands at the Cape Town Photo Club.

Pinnock explained that the photography course gives the students an opportunity to develop their artistic skills.

Puwani said that besides the skills he learned at the academy, the biggest change he saw in himself was the ability to speak to other people with confidence.

"I used to be very quiet," he smiled.

When the students are about to leave they go through the exit part of the programme, which helps them ease into life outside the regimented structure of the academy by focusing on work place behaviour, volunteering at homes for the aged, or marshalling at events.

Plato said the money that the local government provides for the programme has to cover staff, accommodation, food and other expenses, so unconditional donations from private companies always help.

The exhibition is at Artscape until July 2.

Read more on:    dan plato  |  cape town  |  youth

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