Do you know that feeling? That you are exactly in the right place in the right time? That’s the feeling I have just now, here in the South of Africa, in Capetown. I’ve been here for two weeks, in this beautiful but intense city, full of discrepancies. A city full of beauty, wealth, possibilities, poverty, misery and desperation. After months of preparation, writing, and many brainstorming sessions, we’re finally ready. The Ubuntu Acadamy comes to life, step by step. I feel with all my senses that the timing is right and that we, the Ubuntu team in Capetown, are ready and have the competences to take the next step. We are all driven by a strong desire to make a positive change in the lives of a generation of youngsters, who are talented but currently without much perspective.
In this first phase, we focus primarily on research and development. We strive to be as well prepared as possible before we will start to work with the youngsters in a few months. At this stage, we investigate what kind of constructive and sustainable community projects are active here and what is going on in the field of youth empowerment. What is already being done for these youngsters? What are their needs and how can Ubuntu play a part in the fulfilment of these needs? How can we join forces?
We meet with a lot of local Ngo’s, both small and larger ones, local artists, community leaders, members from the municipality and government, entrepreneurs etc. Together with our stakeholders, we’ve started to map out the current situation as good and as clear as we can. That way, later on, we will be able to show the results of the project more clearly. The Ubuntu Academy is a ‘school of life’ for youngsters at risk, who have had hardly any -or none whatsoever- chances to make something out of their lives. Our intention is to make sure that as many as possible of these youngsters get a chance to rise above themselves and leave their desperate situation behind. Local Ubuntu coaches will guide these youngsters in their learning process from life on the streets towards self-reliance. The Ubuntu coaches are filmmakers, creators of theatre, designers, dancers, directors, community leaders, entrepreneurs, musicians etc. The main objective of the coaches is to positively influence the mind-set of the youngsters at risk: to empower them. To let them experience their own power and potential and teach them how to use their talents and qualities in order to get things done in the real world. The Ubuntu Academy is all about the development of talent, leadership and entrepreneurship. After the youngsters finish the Ubuntu Academy, they will continue with professional education, get a paid job, or start their own business.
What truly makes me happy is that all the people we talk to, like people from local Ngo’s, start to shine as soon as we tell them about the Ubuntu Academy. They emphasize how special they think it is that we want to realize self-reliance, leadership and entrepreneurship (exactly what these youngsters need) by offering them education in performing arts, film, design and new media (exactly the things that appeal to these youngsters). Local coaches and trainers stress that they would love to be involved in the Ubuntu Academy as they truly believe it to be a successful, durable and innovative method that will make a real difference in the lives of these youngsters. They see it as a challenge to guide the youngsters from dependence to inter-dependency. Because total independence is an illusion, like someone said the other day. No one is truly independent; everyone needs some kind of support from someone. As it is, we all live together on this planet and we depend on each other.
I’m talking about powerful, beautiful, but nevertheless vulnerable people, who have had a long way to go, but have been able to rise above their situation with the help, patience and trust of other people. People who believe in a more beautiful, more honest, and just world, in which youngsters are truly capable to stand up and defend their rights. A world in which this need to stand up for yourself slowly disappears, as others will do it for you. In the end we all share the same aspiration: a happy and satisfying life. I wish that people everywhere in the world, however poor or rich, recognize that we are this other person, that we are all inter-connected and that we can receive all the happiness in the world just by making someone else happy.