Transforming The Community

NGOs play a pivotal role in assisting with skills development in South Africa. In Vrygrond in Cape Town, the Sozo Foundation is proving just how much of a positive impact these organisations can make, reports Dale Hes.

In 2010, husband and wife team Anton and Elana Cuyler traded in their jobs in England and moved to Cape Town to volunteer as youth workers.

They volunteered at the Bay Community Church in the dusty township of Vrygrond — an area where the youth faced major problems ranging from terrible living conditions to abuse, gangsterism and violence.

“We were moved by what we had seen and decided to try and play a role in transforming the community,” says Anton Cuyler.

Working together with a community development specialist, the couple devised three initial projects geared towards providing practical solutions to the pressing needs they had identified.

Today, the foundation’s programmes encompass educational support and skills development in areas including gardening; graphic design; hair and beauty; digital skills; technical skills; and barista training. Throughout the training, students receive psychosocial support from social work students studying at the University of Cape Town to help them deal with the difficulties they face in life.

Holistic Skills Development At The Sozo Youth Café

The hub of the foundation’s skills development programme, the award-winning Sozo Youth Café, has achieved remarkable results. In 2018, a total of 751 youths between the ages of 16 and 26 were trained at the Youth Café. Of the students who graduated from the programme, 83 per cent were placed in employment, entrepreneurship or educational opportunities.

“Our goal is to see every student who graduates from the Youth Café finding employment, internships or enrolling for further studies,” says Elana Cuyler. “Each student is placed in a career mentoring support group and receives a goal and a career workbook.”

Cuyler says that a vital key to the Youth Café’s success is the life skills training that students receive during the first month. This lays the platform for students to make a success of the programme. “It entails an interactive, informative and experiential life skills programme. We aim to use a variety of teaching styles to meet the learning needs of all our students. This month of life skills training enables students to build soft skills and resilience before they engage in skills training.”

After the training, students are sent for a week of job shadowing to get their first taste of the workplace. “Most of our students have never had previous work experience. We have partnered with local businesses who help us facilitate the job shadowing process,” Cuyler explains.

Improving Education In The Educentre 

With no high school in Vrygrond, many teenagers in the township have to walk long distances to get to school. This further compounds the problem of falling into a life of crime. The Sozo Educentre, therefore, provides after-school tutoring and mentorship for high school learners from the Vrygrond community.

“In a community where gangsterism, abuse and crime negatively impact young people on a daily basis, we provide a safe space for high school learners to be equipped and empowered through education and academic assistance. Since 2011, Educentre has impacted the lives of 465 children and young people,” explains Anton Cuyler.

The Sozo Foundation’s sterling work continues in Vrygrond. New projects are added every year, and with the support of donors and partners, thousands more people are set to benefit from the life-changing programmes offered by this exceptional nonprofit company.

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