“If you had met me a few years ago you would not have recognized me.” These are the words of a young offender currently serving ten years for armed robbery at a correctional facility in the Western Cape. The young man was speaking at The President’s Award for Youth Empowerment Gold Award Ceremony held in Cape Town recently. He revealed how he and other inmates, inspired to complete the Award and make a meaningful contribution to society, found creative solutions to succeed in the programme.
“As an inmate at a Maximum Security Prison, I could not offer service in the broader community. But, I refused to be outdone by this obstacle and together with fellow participants, we developed a giving campaign called “Slice-a-Day” - for every slice of bread we ‘saved’, the equivalent bread was given to those that were hungry in the community,” he explained.
Mutual & Federal, through the company’s Corporate Social Investment strategy, has supported The President’s Award work within correctional facilities across South Africa for past ten years. As a national youth development programme, The President’s Award reaches thousands of young people in schools, community youth groups and residential youth facilities. The aim is to empower young people between the ages of 14 and 24 and enable them to ultimately become responsible active citizens within their communities.
Award activities include participating in regular physical recreation, learning new skills, serving the community and enjoying the challenges of outdoor adventure. These activities help young people realise that they have talent, skills, resilience and the ability to plan a positive future. The Gold Award Ceremony was attended by President Jacob Zuma, Patron-in-Chief of The President’s Award for Youth Empowerment Trust. His Royal Highness the Earl of Wessex, Prince Edward and his wife Princess Sophia, the Countess of Wessex, attended as special guests. Prince Edward is the chair of the International Council and has been a trustee of The Duke of Edinburgh's International Award Foundation since 1987. He is a Gold Award Holder himself and he used his recent visit to South Africa to attend three Gold Award Ceremonies and meet hundreds of Award participants and Award Leaders at numerous Award Unit sites in South Africa.
At the recent awards in Cape Town, President Zuma commended the impact that the Award Programme is having on the lives of young South Africans: “We always say that the youth are the future of our country, but it takes coming to an event like this to see their determination to succeed and to contribute to building the country that we become convinced, that indeed, this country will be in good hands.” The President stressed that he was particularly encouraged that part of the President’s Award for Youth Empowerment’s 30th anniversary commemorative events entailed workshops where participants were informed about the country’s National Development Plan. “We want the youth to own the NDP and to be part of its implementation, as it is designed to make this country a better place for them. Clearly, Award participants are demonstrating their active citizenship,” the President said.
Mike Harper, Chairman of the Mutual & Federal Board, echoed President Zuma’s sentiments and noted the transformation the Programme had had on his own daughter who had participated in the Award Programme through her school. She recently received her Gold Award. Commenting on the Young Offenders programme Harper said: “In the previous 12 months reporting period, the organisation achieved a 95% of their enrolment target within the Department of Correctional Centre environment. In addition, a large number of young offenders also enrolled in Diversion Programmes outside of the prison environment. These are not just numbers in a simple sense of the word, but these young people enrolling in the President’s Award programme reflect their personal commitment to their own transformation and change and should have a positive impact on the future landscape of their country and communities.”
Martin Scholtz, the CEO of The President’s Award for Youth Empowerment, was also pleased with the progress the organisation had made in its 30 years of existence. “The President’s Award for Youth Empowerment is celebrating 30 years of service to young people in South Africa this year and continues to be an effective and flexible youth development programme, challenging young people everywhere,” Scholtz said. “What we need as an organisation is more partners like Mutual & Federal who are committed to this long term and impactful intervention to increase the reach and depth of our impact as an organisation. Effective youth development is not a quick-fix; it’s a journey,” Scholtz added.
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