South Africa

LAUNCHING SOON 

An Optimistic Poem About South Africa’s Water Crisis

Is there a hint of optimism concealed in South Africa’s water shortage crisis?

When drought brings about hope

Thinking back to my childhood

water was never a concern.

The communal tap supplied us daily –

we filled our buckets to the brim.

 

And as I quenched my thirst with freshly caught rain water

ice cold and refreshing

I did not even realise

that this was indeed a blessing.

 

Now the children learn from young

to value each and every drop.

No longer is it limitless –

at any time the supply can stop.

 

Yet, in this time of crisis

South Africans are coming together.

“Please, let rain fall from the sky”,

they pray to the Creator.

 

Sharing tips, sharing ideas

to make it last, this scarce commodity.

To the outsider this may even come across

as an obsession, or a bit of an oddity.

 

“Use bath water to water the garden

Close the tap while brushing your teeth

Put a brick in your toilet’s cistern

And defrost frozen foods in the fridge

 

If it’s yellow, let it mellow

Rinse dishes in a basin

Wash your car on the lawn

Cover the pool to avoid evaporation”

 

So while the drought disaster may cause fear

it also brings about a new form of appreciation.

It shows unity during hardship

and leaves me with hope for our rainbow nation


More from our South Africa Team: 

Calling Young South African Writers, Journalists And Leaders: Tell Your Story And Make A Difference

Meet Eddie Ndopu: The First Disabled African To Attend Oxford University

More Original Poetry: 

Young Politician: A Poem

“What Do You Live For?” Series: An American Educated South African Answers That Question In A Poem

“Peace”: You Have To Read This Powerful Poem About Police Violence

Everyone Should Read This Incredibly Powerful Poem A Man Wrote To His Transgender Sister

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: dasroofless/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

South Africa Start Up Profile: 7 Steps- The Company That Brings Art To Cape Flats

The 7 Steps Hub Initiative is an innovative idea started by founder Clint White in his efforts to bring art and creativity to the disadvantaged of youth living on the Cape Flats.

I met up with Clint White to discuss the initiative, its goals and vision and what local and international organizations and individuals can do to get involved and make a difference.

RISE NEWS: 1. Can you give us an idea of your background and what lead to the idea of starting the 7 Steps Hub initiative?

Clint White: I’m a creative enthusiast, entrepreneur, brand strategist, creative director and business speaker. I’ve had the opportunity to be active in many creative roles, from brand manager, stylist, writer, creative director, art director, stage director, workshop host, panellist and even a voice over artist. I’m quite a lively and determined person, always wanting to source information and to do things differently. It’s how I’m inspired to be innovative in everything I do.

Living on the Cape Flats in Cape Town, I have a first-hand experience on what life is like here, the reality and prevalence of drug abuse, despair and violence suffered by our youth. This has forged a wedge between people, and the effects are disastrous. We’ve been left with a nation of uninspired youth, within disconnected communities, with little hope, so I thought that there must be an opportunity to change it.

RISE NEWS: 2. Why do you think that art specifically is a tool to change mind sets and instil a sense of self-confidence in the youth living on the Cape Flats?

Clint White: Coming from a creative background myself, I believe that art has the ability to heal people from an intrinsic perspective, which can quite literally change an individual’s thinking.

I think we should re-introduce art in our public education system, as it’s seen as an exclusive privilege at best.

There is little understanding of art in our communities and this creates a hindrance in pursuing a creative career or appreciation of the discipline.

We need to realise that the ability to think creatively and to come up with ideas, contributes to every industry the world over, from fashion, engineering, science, technology, music, media, architecture, design and even education; they all require creativity.

Founder Clint White (R) receiving an award from Marlon Parker, founder of RLabs.

You can pour your emotions, desires, fears, aspirations and viewpoints into whatever artwork you create, and learn new skills in the process. Art allows people to think differently in a way that we apply creative interpretations of how we experience the world around us and how we contribute to it.

RISE NEWS: 3. Has art been a force in your life and how has it changed or created a shift in mindset for you?

Clint White: Art is merely the mechanism or framework for innovation. I’m someone who has many different interests and creative pursuits in life, which I use to my advantage.

It [art] is about learning from past experiences and challenging myself to create new things, experiences and ideas; that’s where the innovation lies. I’m always researching new ideas, seeing what’s been done before and how we can make things better, to disrupt and to innovate. It’s what drives me.

RISE NEWS: 4. What do you intend to do with the art pieces that the kids create through the 7 Steps Hub initiative?

Clint White: Through our workshops, we intend on placing the art in the schools to encourage an appreciation and curiosity in art.

We expect that this will mitigate bullying as well, in the hopes that other youth will be interested in joining our programmes. The contributions the youth will make and the skills that they will learn will cultivate a sense of ownership which can be applied to other spheres of their lives too.

Through active support of funders and the public we hope to provide employment, entrepreneurship ideals and career development opportunities as well once the youth complete their schooling and perfect their skills through the art they create.

RISE NEWS: 5. Can you elaborate more on the community projects that 7 Steps Hub is starting up with students from Wynberg and Athlone?

Clint White: We wish to integrate the thinking at a community level into community development projects, not specifically only Wynberg and Athlone, but all communities.

We first want the learners to adopt a sense of ownership of their school, and then tackle their communities where they live.

We want the youth to visualise their communities as places of interest and inspiration. Through community clean ups, revamps, and art installations in these areas, we want to beautify them and bring the spirit of community back into where we live.

RISE NEWS: 6. Tell us more about the WaydesWelcome Journey and how that has influenced you moving forward with the 7 Steps Hub initiative?

Clint White: When I decided to walk around Cape Town collecting messages of support and congratulations for Olympic World Champion, Wayde Van Niekerk, I had no clue how the idea would take off. The campaign trended nationally within three days, and featured on every major media platform in the country, from radio interviews, TV appearances and newspaper articles. I met every person who signed the book.

I captured the journey on social media and garnered hundreds of thousands of impressions and people following the story each day.

It took me two months and 400 kilometres on foot, meeting hundreds of every day citizens and celebrities, from David Kramer, Evita Bezuidenhout, Mpho Tutu Van Furth and many more, to being invited by different companies, organisations, schools and people, it was incredible.

When he [Wayde Van Niekerk] arrived back in the country, I was fortunate enough to be invited by T-Systems to attend a gala dinner in Wayde’s honour as a special guest.

I had the opportunity to have dinner with Wayde, met his family and made a speech, before finally handing the book over.

It inspired me that we as a nation can come together for a greater good. I was incredibly inspired that through my idea, I could unite the entire nation.

All we need is a little inspiration, to do great things. As South Africans, we are kind hearted and genuine, it was refreshing to experience first-hand.

RISE NEWS: 7. What are your goals for the 2017 year and how can businesses and individuals get involved in such an initiative?

Clint White: Our goal for 2017 is to inspire the youth and build partnerships and relationships in realising its success.

We’re busy planning a 7 Steps Hub Creative Expo, showcasing the innovation and creativity from our programmes, as well as artistic contributions from individuals in Cape Town.

As we are a non-profit organisation, the challenges we face are funding, and the need for resources in our continued endeavours in changing lives.

We want youth, private business, parents, government and ordinary citizens to make a concerted effort in supporting our organisation in any way they can.

We have a list of resources and funding objectives available which anyone can contribute towards.

We need people to support our social media platforms and spread the word about our initiative.

We will be launching a crowdfunding campaign too, for people to assist 7 Steps Hub. It’s important that we realise the need to take the step and build our future, together.


Follow this creative initiative on these social media platforms for more information on how to get involved and support the 7 Steps Hub Initiative:

Email: 7stepshub@gmail.com

Facebook page: www.facebook.com/7StepsHub

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Is This South Africa’s Tiananmen Square Moment?

Bryce Swerhun had spent most of his time in Johannesburg safely away from the sounds of explosions near the University Of The Witwatersrand (Wits).

But something drew him to the campus on October 10 as scores of angry students gathered in a large protest for the elimination of college fees across the country.

What Swerhun, a Canadian who is in South Africa doing field work for his PhD program at City University of Hong Kong, saw there was nothing short of government sanctioned violence against young people on a scale rarely seen in liberal democracies.

Student organizers of the so called #FeesMustFall movement warned private security gathered on the steps of the Great Hall at the center of Wits’ campus that some among their number may start hurling stones at them unless they opened the doors to the building.

By the time Swerhun entered through the visitor gate and walked upon the scene, some protestors were indeed throwing stones at the security guards.

Then the police got involved.

“I saw the water cannon truck shoot up and spray the students below,” Swerhun said in an interview with RISE NEWS.

Swerhun said that “several hundred” student protestors were in the area around the Great Hall at the height of the clashes and that police were being very heavy-handed in the way in which they were breaking up the group.

Tear gas canisters leaving trails of smoke as they hit the ground. Rubber bullets thumping through the air. People yelling. People running.

Through the chaos in front of the Great Hall, Swerhun said that he saw one scene that reminded him of the troubling racist past of South Africa.

A white police officer had a group of black protestors cornered while allowing other students to freely pass. When a group of white students walked behind the officer without being stopped, the cornered black students started to argue how unfair it was.

At a certain point, Swerhun decided that he had seen enough and that he wanted to get back to the safety of his hotel room.

He walked behind the Great Hall, where he spotted a church where some students seemed to be gathered.

He thought that he could escape from the campus by going through the church.

“The priest then slumped over and then the blood was pouring out. They shot him because he defied them.”

What follows sounds like it is straight out of movie.

“There was a significant moment that reminded me of Tiananmen Square,” Swerhun said.

When he reached the church, most of the students in the area where gathered in a parking lot. There he saw a priest in white robes standing in the entrance.

“He [the priest] seemed to be making a statement, that he was there and it was a place of refuge,” Swerhun said.

But then a massive armored police vehicle started racing towards the church.

“It was moving at quite a speed and everyone is running away,” Swerhun said. “When I get behind a parked car, I see the priest put his arm and the vehicle backed up and left.”

Joy swept through the crowd but it was a short-lived feeling.

“Another armored vehicle came and started shooting rubber bullets at random, Swerhun said. “The priest then slumped over and then the blood was pouring out. They shot him because he defied them.”

Swerhun said that the shooting of the priest had a profound impact on the people who witnessed it.

“Some people got really angry and I saw someone say ‘call up the people with the petrol bombs.'”

“This was nothing but a brutal show of state force,” Swerhun said. “Those police in the vehicle were not in any danger.”

The priest was then brought into the church were he was tended to by private paramedics.

Despite being shot in the face with at least one rubber bullet, he was able to walk out of the church to a waiting car.

While the violence has largely been ignored by the world’s media, it shouldn’t be.

The issue is unlikely to go away even though things are starting to calm down on the streets.

Sure Kamhunga, a political commentator who has a large Twitter following said in an interview with RISE NEWS that the government should do more to end the clashes.

“Meet the student body. Listen to their demands. Offer a solution that paves way for mutual understanding,” Kamhunga said in way of advice to President Jacob Zuma’s government. “Students have already proposed a funding model and that is a good start to reach a common understanding and solution.”

Calling Young South African Writers, Journalists And Leaders: Tell Your Story And Make A Difference

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

“What Do You Live For?” Series: An American Educated South African Answers That Question In A Poem

For?

For the morning drizzle outside
cuddled with a lover
or the sweat on my brow
while I lift boulders.

For the smell of spices from a cast iron orange pot
or the lingering taste of fermented grapes
in the lull of a Thursday evening.

For the black man who waves
at a white baby
or the queer who helps the straight guy sow.

For the corrupt politicians finally serving their sentences
or the homeless woman finally getting a fresh slice of bread.

For the aborted children giving meaning to life,
or the orphans succeeding despite hardship and strife.

For music
for pain
for love
for art.
For the swing in my hips
when the strobe lights flash and the
music vibrates my ribcage.

For the conversations that last all night
or the eye contact with a stranger that lingers for weeks.

For discoveries revealing us to be insects
to Gods,
or the majestic Cathedrals
DEMANDING REVERANCE
(Its own type of gift.)

For humanity’s love
(which needs explaining)
and the fault lines of the heart
causing families to slip between tectonic plates.

For tragedy
for birth
for death
for utter chaos:
reminding us that we’re riders of this rock
with fists plunged deep into moist soul
we cultivate, we reap, we straddle
riding this beast till all is eventually
forgot.

Read More: Everyone Should Read This Incredibly Powerful Poem A Man Wrote To His Transgender Sister

Read More: “Peace”:A Powerful Poem About Police Violence

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Meet Eddie Ndopu: The First Disabled African To Attend Oxford University

Eddie Ndopu, a 25 year old South African, is set to become the first disabled African to attend the prestigious Oxford University.

Eddie has his eyes set on Oxford where he plans to revolutionize the lives of disabled people around the world.

I had the privilege of interviewing this out-of-the-box thinker on his journey so far and his plans to revolutionize the world for disabled people.

RISE NEWS: A lot of people see you as the first disabled African to go to Oxford, so how do you feel about being labelled as that person?

Eddie: First, I think it is a symbolic victory for a young, disabled African as well as disabled people throughout the world.

It’s symbolic because statistically there is about 90 ninety percent of children with disabilities across the developing world who have no access to basic education.

So it’s an amazing personal achievement as well as an achievement for disabled people all over the world.

The second perspective I don’t like to subscribe to labels. I choose to move through the world as a dynamic and fluid individual so that I am not tied to any stereotypes or preconceptions that the world may have about me.

RISE: What will you be studying when you go to Oxford?

I will be doing a Master’s degree in Public Policy.

RISE: So what are you looking to gain from your Oxford experience?

I am trying to lay the foundation for an ambitious organization that I have founded with a friend. We are calling it the Evolve Initiative we are trying to help people with disabilities live their best lives. In short, we are trying to provide the institutional support to disabled people so that they can have the same opportunities as able-bodied individuals.

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RISE: What are your plans for after you graduate from Oxford?

After Oxford I’ll spend two years trying to get people to understand what the Evolve Initiative is about. That will take the form of this kind of “Beyonce-esque” feature length presentation.

At the end of the presentation I hope to be launching into space as the first disabled person to ever be in space. I also want to address the United Nations from space about the rights of disabled people globally.

RISE: How has the public supported you in achieving this goal of going to Oxford?

The public has been quite amazing and very supportive. People have been very generous giving whatever they had whether it was R500 or R2000 rand. I did expect more support from Corporate South Africa but a lot of the time people want to be associated with you because you making headlines. Yet they aren’t prepared to put their money where their mouth is.

RISE: Are there any things that worry you about leaving South Africa and going to study at Oxford?

No, not really because it’s not my first time abroad. I did my undergraduate in Canada and so I left for four years and it was an incredible experience. I see myself as a global citizen. I am an African of the world. I like to keep moving so I am not anxious at all.

READ MORE: Can This Young South African Change The Way The World Looks At Farming?

RISE: How do you deal with being disabled and queer? Are there challenges?

For me I always say that there is no contradiction in embodying all of these identities. I cannot compartmentalize my identity. When I am doing disability activism I am also doing queer activism and antiracist work. Everybody is not just one thing we embody so many identities at once. I make sure that I am able to always speak about my identities in a nuanced way.

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RISE: Could you talk to me a bit more about your ideas surrounding independence versus dependence as well as what it means to be a abled-bodied adult in our society?

For me as a young 25 year-old man I find that people will forever treat you like a child. People always talk down to you when you are disabled. I have realized that with the experience of disability, adulthood becomes hard to navigate.

When we think about what it means to be an adult its always about doing things for yourself. So the societal conception of being an adult does not fit with the experience of a disabled adult who relies on other adults for their survival. People only see a basic surface level of what it means to be independent.

I reject independence because I don’t think it’s real.

Able-bodied people get help all the time, but as I said in the my YouTube video the help that they get disappears into the background and it makes it look like independence. The world is constructed around the needs of your able-bodied experience and because of that you are being helped on an institutional level.

RISE: I heard you say that you want people to see disabled people as gifts to humanity. Could you explain that a bit more?

It comes from the deep recognition that changes happen on the margins of society. Marginalized people are the most innovative people because they need to figure out creative ways of surviving.

So because disabled people are one of the most marginalized groups in society we are able to challenge the status quo and reimagine a world that opens up equal opportunities for all people. If you can address the needs of people with disabilities you can change the world because every part of society will be different from the way we design our environments to the way we relate to each other as human beings.

Eddie is set to begin his Masters in September of 2016.

Calling Young South African Writers, Journalists And Leaders: Tell Your Story And Make A Difference

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Photo Credits: Eddie Ndopu/ Submitted

Calling Young South African Writers, Journalists And Leaders: Tell Your Story And Make A Difference

We are looking for young writers, journalists, leaders and storytellers in South Africa to join in our effort to change the way news and information is told all around the world.

RISE NEWS is a fast growing and highly impactful millennial focused news organization that has brought together over 1,000 of the most talented young people from all around the world. And we are just getting started.

Our next big push is going to be in South Africa, where our message is resonating and helping us grow into something truly special.

Our mission is a simple but revolutionary one: we want to create an outlet which tells the stories that mainstream media too often miss, while building a platform that can serve as a place for debate and discussion.

We believe in storytelling and that the pursuit of truth should be the foremost goal for those in public life.

Photo Credit: South African Tourism/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Photo Credit: South African Tourism/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

We also deeply believe in the power of our generation (no matter where we physically are on this planet) and that we need a vibrant free press in all corners of the Earth.

You can have real impact here.

In the process, you will learn more about the power of story-telling while gaining valuable work experience in a fun team atmosphere.

As one of the most diverse and vibrant countries on Earth, South Africa is perfectly positioned to be a leading force for our mission of a more democratized news industry.

While we lean towards news and originally reported journalism pieces, we also publish opinion pieces, policy proposals, first person narratives and fiction short stories as well.

You don’t need any prior journalism experience to participate. We encourage any ambitious and talented young person (and those young at heart) to reach out to us.

You will work with our in country editor and our team back in the United States as well.

If you are interested then please fill out this form: http://risenews.net/join-the-team/

If you have any questions, feel free to email us at editor@risenews.net.

Cover Photo Credit: Celso FLORES/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

South African Women Rise Up In Topless Protest To Fight Against Rape On Their College Campuses

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA- Two weeks ago, a list published on social media detailed 11 names of people accused of raping students at Rhodes University in the Eastern Cape region of South Africa.

The list was released, along with a set of demands by still unknown members of the Rhodes University student body.

Thousands of students protesting under the banner “Unashamed”, began their movement by placing posters on walls with quotes from Rhodes students, management and prosecutors.

The posters were intended to show the prevailing attitudes of those in and around Rhodes regarding rape and the rape culture that is being fostered in Rhodes and without a doubt, other South African universities.

The Unashamed movement, along with anti-rape organisation, Chapter 212 (which refers to Chapter 2(12) of the South African Constitution, which entails the freedom and security of the person,) began the anti-rape campaign in order to challenge the current systems in place for victims of rape and sexual assault in universities and the country.

Since the beginning of the campaign there have been protests on the Rhodes campus.

And while they intended to be peaceful, some students were injured after police fired stun grenades at them.  

Five students were arrested for “protesting on a public road.”

WATCH: Video of three of the arrested students

Heavy police presence have been a feature of protests on South African campuses since the #FeesMustFall movement began last year.

It seems then that the #RUReferenceList was released in order to coincide with the larger student campaign for reform and in order to protect women on campus from suspected rapists.

However, the release of the list has been controversial with some people calling for justice to be served, before anyone is outed in a public way.

The implication among young people in this country is that a few members of the movement have had defamation charges brought against them; this has caused further outrage because it seems as though university management is more concerned about the identities of rapists than the safety of women on campus.

The movement prompted protests on campuses across the country, with Stellenbosch University and the University of Cape Town placing posters, such as the ones in Rhodes, on their campuses.

But the most dramatic protest was held by the women of the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. Scores of students here partook in a topless protest in solidarity with the women of Rhodes.

Images of the protests at University of the Witwatersrand:

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It seems as though this is just the beginning of protests on campuses across South Africa, with the intention of bringing the serious issue of rape on university campuses to the forefront of discussion.

RISE NEWS will continue to cover this story as it develops in South Africa. 

Do you have a news tip? Send it to us at editor@risenews.net.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us.

Photo Credits: Lungani Gumede/ RISE NEWS.

Can This Young South African Change The Way The World Looks At Farming?

By: Lungani Gumede

UMLAZI TOWNSHIP, SOUTH AFRICA: Growing up in a rural village has many advantages and some of society’s favorite stories involve a dusty footed hero making it big in the city.

One of the biggest advantages of living in a rural setting is being thrust into the natural environment early on in ones life.

The surrounding forests, fields and rivers are a playground for children and, like other children, Dumisani Msweli quickly became infatuated with this environment.

He used to live with his grandmother in rural Umbumbulu, thirty minutes away from where Kwa-Zulu Natal’s coast meets the Indian Ocean.

However, Dumisani moved to be with his mother and stepfather in Umlazi township, the third largest township in South Africa, just outside of Durban.

Umlazi was one of them.

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A view of Umlazi. Photo Credit: Lungani Gumede

With a population of close to 405,000 in an area that is 47.46km squared (8,500 people per square kilometre) the township is compacted and land that is supposed to fit one family, has had to accommodate four or five houses on one plot.

So any arable land would have been converted into space for dwellings.

However, Dumisani always felt love for plants and trees and never forgot his passion.

After high school, Dumisani went to University and graduated with a degree in Nutrition, but that was not his passion.

“One of my mentors advised me to follow my passion,” Dumisani said in an interview with RISE NEWS

Which is what he did by going back to school. He received a National Diploma in Horticulture from the Durban University of Technology.

Dumisani then says he “saw a need and an opportunity in the township,” a need for work, cheap products and a cleaner environment.

This is how Ibala Organics was born.

Ibala means “backyard” or “garden” in isiZulu and Dumisani quickly realized that other amabala or “openspace” that belonged to the people in the community were the key to creating a sustainable, consistently fruitful business for the township of Umlazi.

Dumisani’s idea was to rent and buy land from inside the community, such as gardens, backyards and schoolyards and plant tropical and subtropical fruits and then sell those fruits to supermarkets and fruit processors.

By shortening and localizing his supply chain, Dumisani says there will be no need for expensive refrigeration or transportation.

The initiative will sell its fruits (pun intended) to fruit processors and supermarkets, which means that the gardens will need to provide its wares regularly and on time and the more “amabala” they have, the better.

Ibala already has a square kilometre of household backyard space that it has acquired and processed and a further 1.5 kilometre squared space from schoolyards that are being cultivated for the planting of vegetables in April.

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Space is at a premium in Umlazi. Photo Credit: Lungani Gumede

However, Dumisani says he is always on the lookout and constantly negotiating for more spaces.

Ibala Organics aims to provide communities with a very valuable second income, without actually having to toil the land.

Dumisani hires people from the community to work with him and is adamant that he wants to give opportunities to people who just left school with the right qualifications, over eight million people are unemployed in South Africa and university-leaving degree-bearing young people are not being hired.

Besides the good that Ibala Organics will do for the economies of the communities it operates in, Dumisani says “it is our vision to plant the value of tree’s in people’s lives.”

Dumisani wants to ensure that the people who will be participating in Ibala Organics gain a love for the plants and trees that he will be planting.

Getting buy-in from the community was not a problem for Dumisani, because he started close to home – on his own street.

Once he had proven his model to those close to home, it was easier to get support from neighboring communities.

The drought that has hit South Africa has not severely impacted on Ibala’s crop of tropical and subtropical fruit, such as Mangoes,paw paw, avocado, banana, granadilla, citrus fruit and litchi and in April they hope to add vegetables to the offering.

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Dumisani Msweli. Photo Credit: Lungani Gumede

Ibala Organics will soon be completely operational and the gardens of Umlazi will be home to trees and plants with heavy-hanging branches bearing fruit and vegetables.

Perhaps Ibala Organics and Dumisani will create a wave across the 400,000 people strong township that encourages local products and unity in the community.

A hand-in-hand initiative for the people, by the people.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us!

Know of a story that needs to be told? Send us an email to editor@risenews.net

Cover Photo Credit: Red Bull/ Screengrab

Soccer Activism: American Millennial Is Making A World Of Difference In South Africa

This article was originally published on risemiaminews.com on June 9, 2015.  

By Linzee Werkmeister

Sam Stokesberry has taken her love of children, God and soccer across the Atlantic to the Western Cape region of South Africa and channeled it into something truly inspiring.

In January of this year, Stokesberry packed her bags and moved 7,672 miles away to Stellenbosch, South Africa. She is currently working for a nonprofit organization called training4changeS, where they focus on using the sport of Futsal to build relationships with the local youth to make a difference in their lives. Futsal is typically played indoors on a hard court and features five players to a side.

The ages of the participants currently range between 5-7 years old, but it’s Stokesberry’s hope to journey with them as they get older. Stokesberry works with the children after school twice a week and every other Friday for futsal league games.

“Our program includes social impact lessons and games that focus on issues such as gender equality, using your voice, discrimination, drug abuse prevention, anti-racism, violence prevention, HIV prevention, teamwork, and making wise choices,” Stokesberry said. “Our goal is to incorporate social impact games into our Futsal practices so we can create a safe learning environment that will keep the kids off the streets and out of danger after school.”

Stokesberry grew up playing soccer in South Florida. She was good at it too and played club soccer while at the University of Central Florida. After graduating with a degree in Sports and Fitness, she worked for several private strength and conditioning facilities including Primal Fit Miami and the Fast Twitch Performance Training.

She also coached soccer at Chaminade-Madonna College Preparatory at the high school level and at Doctors Charter School at both the high school and middle school level.

In 2012, Stokesberry first visited South Africa to attend a six-week International Sports Leadership Training Course hosted by the FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) and SCAS (Sport for Christ Action South Africa). She lived with a group of Americans who also attended the course, and then returned the following year as a co-leader. Stokesberry said that she knew then that South Africa would become her second home.

“When I first came to South Africa in 2012, I saw the great need there was in this country for change and empowerment especially amongst the youth. I also saw their passion and love for soccer which was something I could relate to,” Stokesberry said. “My heart broke when I heard about the obstacles that these kids were having to battle through, and I developed such a great love and compassion for them.”

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Sam Stokesberry watches a drill while working in South Africa as a soccer coach and mentor. Photo Credit: training4changeS

The following year in 2013 Stokesberry was given an opportunity to come back to the country and coach soccer.

“Being able to see the kids who were told that they would never amount to anything, become kids who now value their own lives and the lives of the next generation is a huge inspiration to me,” Stokesberry said. “They are setting a new standard and they are standing up against hate, indifference, and oppression. It’s been a huge blessing to witness the heart and life changes in these kids and amongst the South African coaches we hire on our staff. I am surrounded by some amazing overcomers and fighters each day I show up to work.”

Stokesberry currently works with six different primary schools in the Western Cape area, and each school is composed of a different demographic. The group, training4changeS promotes cultural diversity and a family-like atmosphere amongst the students and the staff which can be rare to find in South Africa because of deep standing racial tension.

In addition to working with training4changeS, Stokesberry is also partnering with Ambassadors in Football who work with juvenile inmates in Hope Academy within Drakenstein Prison, which is famously known for being where Nelson Mandela was held in the final years of his prison sentence.

The groups says that they focus on “Faith, Football, and Future” by maintaining a strict set of core values within the prison. They are a Christian organization who share the love and hope of Jesus through soccer, while also teaching the boys about character development and life skills.

Aside from her efforts through an athletic platform, Stokesberry works with STOP – Stop Trafficking Of People, which is an organization that fights against sex trafficking by raising awareness throughout Africa by hosting school presentations and outreaches for young people.

STOP is also in the process of establishing safe houses for human trafficking victims in the Western Cape area.

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Sam Stokesberry (C) is a soccer coach and mentor for young people in South Africa. Photo Credit: training4changeS

Back in 2012, at the FCA International Sports Leadership Training Course, Stokesberry made fast friends with Rencia Young, a South African who she now coaches alongside with for training4changeS.

“She’s a very passionate, loving and kind person. I adore her, her heart for people is pretty amazing,” Young said of Stokesberry. “She’s full of compassion and that’s what makes her so good in what she does, whether it’s coaching, handing out food to prostitutes or playing soccer with prisoners. I am learning a lot from her especially when it comes to compassion and love towards those who it’s difficult to love.”

Stokesberry said that growing up in South Florida helped prepare her for life in a diverse nation like South Africa.

“Miami is incredibly multicultural, and so is South Africa. But a huge difference is the amount of racism that takes place in this country,” Stokesberry said. “In Miami, I grew up in school surrounded by different languages and cultures and skin colors, but we were all equal and valuable. Women are also discriminated against when it comes to sports, so the young girls who are interested in playing lack the female role models and leaders to look up to in the industry. It’s a lot harder for a girl to succeed in sports than it is for a man in this country. For women, the opportunities just aren’t there…yet.”

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Cover Photo Credit:  training4changeS/Submitted

This article was originally published on risemiaminews.com.

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