As the R20-million Volkswagen loveLife Youth Centre in Uitenhage’s KwaNobuhle township celebrates its first year anniversary, manager Themba Maseti has announced several successes as well as bold plans for the year ahead.
Opened last year to coincide with World Aids Day on 1 December, the Volkswagen loveLife “Y-Centre” – funded by a joint Volkswagen AG and IG Metal donation – was described as “an invaluable asset to the community” by Volkswagen Group South Africa managing director David Powels.
The Y-Centre was built to provide the youth of KwaNobuhle and the greater Uitenhage area with a safe haven where they can play sport and interact with their peers and adults. It is also equipped with a youth-friendly clinic offering specialised HIV and Aids advice, as well as counselling and support services for teenagers and parents.
Over the past 12 months the centre has been involved in outreach programmes to the 20 schools in the area, reaching over over 20,000 young people. Statistics provided by the centre show that it has not only become an invaluable asset in counselling the youth of KwaNobuhle, which has a total population of about 90,000 but it has also helped to launch several promising careers.
“The support that we have received from Volkswagen Group South Africa has meant so much. It has helped us achieve a lot over this past year,” said Maseti.
“We have a long and proud history of community upliftment in the Uitenhage area, with the opening of the loveLife Y-Centre being one of the flagships,” commented VWSA Director of Corporate and Government Affairs Nonkqubela Maliza.
“The centre is a positive and empowering catalyst for the community’s youth. With all the educational and informative programmes undertaken in the past year, I believe the youth is now more equipped to build better lives for themselves.”
Maseti said that 10 people have been trained as Y-Centre “groundBREAKERS” (or “gBs”) to assist in engaging the youth of the area over the past year. Ten more would be trained each year, he added. The gBs have received mentorship from loveLife staff as well as from the VWSA Peer Educators.
Successes include the likes of former gB, Odwa Nyila, who was assisted by the centre to enroll in a Transnet Helicopter Pilot Programme. Nyila passed his exams and is now working in Cape Town.
Another former gB, Sandisiwe Sokrowa, received media training through the Y-Centre and went on to win a Boston College Media Scholarship worth R95 000. She also won a national media competition by Vuselela Media and loveLife, with her documentary being declared the top entry countrywide.
“We have achieved so much this year,” said Maseti. “In 2014 we are planning to reach more young people, so that they will be able to access the centre. These guys come from the poorest areas of KwaNobuhle.”
The centre has pioneered a community-based radio station, loveLife KwaNobuhle, or Radio L2K, which is run by gBs who have received training in radio presenting through the centre.
At the moment the station has a 5km radius, but we are hoping to broaden that to the whole surrounding Uitenhage area in 2014.
About 3,500 people engage with Radio L2K through social media platforms like Facebook and WhatsApp every month. The radio station also conducts approximately 100 interviews on community issues a month.
Youth in the area have been able to receive assistance at the centre covering a myriad of issues, including help with substance abuse; holistic health checks; reproductive health and HIV/Aids counseling; and counselling and assistance to women and children who have been victims of violence.
“The KwaNobuhle Y-Centre has average visits of about 250 young people a day. It has become a hub of hope and an information centre for young people within this area,” said Maseti.
There are a number of programmes that are drawing youth to the centre, such as sport and recreation [on fields outside the centre], debate on topical issues, arts and culture programmes [including poetry, drama and dance], the Vitality Room which has a professional nurse on duty, and computer classes in our Cyber Room.
The centre’s culture programme has seen such an interest from the local youth that the Y-Centre on the cusp of signing an agreement with the Port Elizabeth Opera House which will see drama professionals run training classes for youth in the area.
“What has been encouraging is to see young people finding a place of hope in spite of everything negative happening around them,” said Maseti. “To see their lives change and to see their sense of future has been a highlight for me.”