– by Craig Stewart

In South Africa, less than 40% of learners who start grade 1 complete matric 12 years later. This is a tragedy with complex roots, but the consequences for individuals, communities, and society in general are all too obvious with extremely high levels of youth unemployment – and the social issues that come with that. The community of Imizamo Yethu, in the Hout Bay valley of Cape Town, is one where this story is played out over and over again; an 18-hectare community of around 16 000 people, living in a mix of informal and formal housing. Like many similar communities, it is a community with an average annual household income of less than R30 000, and an unemployment rate of around 60%. Mhinti Pato believes it doesn’t have to be this way and that living out the Good News of the Gospel means that these statistics don’t need to define the future for young people in this, or any community. 

Helping others fulfil their potential
Mhinti grew up in Gugulethu, Cape Town, and is married to Ricky – they have three children. They moved to IY when Mhinti started working for Ikhaya Lethemba, nearly ten years ago. Ikhaya Lethemba is a wonderful ministry working with vulnerable children within Imizamo Yethu, where Mhinti worked as their parent and community liaison person. In this role her heart was constantly broken by the stories of young people who finished at Ikhaya Lethemba, but did not complete high school, missing out on fulfilling their potential. They had to do something, which led to the establishment of a Friday evening life skills and outreach programme to reach these young people, keep them in school, and help them thrive.
Local support for Mhinti Over time, the programme grew – eventually reaching the point where it made sense for Ikhaya Lethemba to release Mhinti to start Sakhisizwe Youth Development Programme as an independent NPO that develops, builds, and empowers young people holistically with life skills that will help them make conscious decisions to live life to the fullest and become the best they can be. The Warehouse Trust, an NGO that helps the church respond well to poverty, injustice, and division, in Cape Town has provided friendship, encouragement, mentoring, and training to Mhinti as she has worked towards the establishment of this programme.

Called by God
Rooted in Mhinti’s sense of call from God, Sakhisizwe YDP offers an educational support and safe space to Youth between ages of 13 and 21 through various aftercare programmes that:

• Provide opportunities for educational support and progress through school into further education
• Encourage healthy living through sport activities
• Empower with leadership and mentorship skills
• Offer family support through home visits, family therapy, and reconciliations between the youth and their parents.
• Offer skills and development for the community

Great tetsimonies
Sakhisizwe YDP is a community initiative that is owned and supported by the local residents of IY. Recently, a group of community residents and parents clubbed together and purchased a variety of equipment and supplies for Sakhisizwe YDP to show their support and appreciation for the work. Sihle Krishe is a young man who is indicative of the importance of the work. He finished matric in 2017 and this year will be going to university to study. He has faithfully participated in the activities and opportunities provided by Sakhisizwe, which has contributed significantly to his success. He is also committed to working hard and so has found part time work through the Sakhisizwe network, enabling him to pay for travel and transport to university. Hope is present in his and other stories that proclaim that the statistics don’t have to define a life.

Passionate about the people
Mhinti is passionate about the sustainability of Sakhisizwe YDP. Like most community based NPOs, Sakhisizwe receives donations from individuals, businesses, and churches that enable the programme to invest in young people. However, Mhinti is extremely entrepreneurial and, in addition to completing studies in community development, she has also qualified as a tour guide and is registered with AirBNB. Using these qualifications, she has established income streams that offer tours and experiences for visitors, whilst at the same time growing the skills of the young people with whom she works. The tours provide opportunity for income generation and skills development for the young people. 

No time for naïve optimism Mhinti believes in authentic hope that has faced up to the reality of challenges facing people. Her own life story means that she is not naively optimistic about what young people are facing in order to overcome and thrive. The systems of this world are stacked against their success. “There is so much to be negative and hopeless about when you look at the situation. Naive optimism is not hope, because it just says things will be better without counting the cost of what it will take for things to be better.” But she believes that authentic hope trusts that tomorrow can be better, that she and her team can be the people who encourage young people to stay at school, to help them to dream about their future, and to believe that one day they will live a better life.

For more information about Sakhisizwe or to learn how you can support them please contact Mhinti on mhinti.pato@hotmail.com or find them on Facebook.

The Church often needs assistance
The Warehouse Trust works to support the Church in responding effectively to poverty, injustice, and division. The Church has shown a willingness to respond to these situations but a lack of capacity, collaboration, and strategic integration has often hindered its effectiveness.

CRAIG STEWART is the CEO of The Warehouse Trust, a local NPO in Cape Town that supports ministries like Mhinti’s. Visit www.warehouse.org.za

JOY! Magazine (May 2018)

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