“My heart is full of gratitude as I think of the journey I have travelled since I became a part of this programme. I was lost, had been rejected a few times and had given up. The Umzi Wethu programme turned my life around. After each day I was full of hope, after every session I felt revived and after time spent in class I was reminded once again that my life mattered, my situation was not permanent, that I would conquer depression and anxiety, and that I would rise above all obstacles”. These are the words of Sanelisiwe Ntseta, a young woman who graduated as an Assistant Chef from the Umzi Wethu training course run by the Youth Development Programme of Wilderness Foundation Africa in late January 2019.
A total of 20 youth graduated successfully as Conservation General Assistants and 18 youth as Assistant Chefs at the graduation ceremony held at the Tramways building in Port Elizabeth. The ceremony was attended by family and friends of the graduates, mentors and placement partners, as well as funders of Wilderness Foundation Africa.
Mrs Violet Lupuwana, owner and managing director of Chumile Holdings (Pty) Ltd and a mentor of the Youth Development Programme was invited as a guest speaker and delivered an inspiring speech which encouraged the young graduates to use the opportunity which has been afforded to them to grow as individuals and to use their newly acquired skills to build successful lives for themselves and their families.
The Umzi Wethu model is a social development and intervention programme for displaced and socially vulnerable youth (those who have lost one or both parents, are child headed households or live in households with no formal income). It draws on opportunities presented by gaps in various sectors including the hospitality and eco-tourism industry in South Africa, training assistant chefs and conservation rangers. Since inception, 439 vulnerable youth have graduated from the Umzi Wethu programme of Wilderness Foundation Africa.