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14 Dec 2017 UmziWethu and Youth Development 0

Wilderness Foundation Africa held a graduation ceremony today for 20 Conservation students who have successfully completed a year-long Umzi Wethu training course through the Youth Development Programme. An additional 31 youth previously graduated through the programme in June 2016, with 15 having trained as Junior Chefs and 16 as Conservation Guardians for the hospitality and conservation industry respectively.

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Wilderness Foundation Africa, through its Youth Development Programme, has implemented a number of holistic skills development and education interventions that harness the healing power of nature to equip vulnerable youth to be economically active and environmentally responsible citizens.

At the core of these interventions are carefully developed physical and psychological wellness programmes which aim to provide specific support to the participants as they complete the employability, skills development or vocational training aspects, depending on which courses they are enrolled in.

Furthermore, Wilderness Foundation Africa has seen just how powerfully young people respond to spending time in wilderness areas and based on our long history of using nature for personal and social transformation, WFA have integrated various levels of Wilderness Trail activities into the holistic intervention courses.

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WFA was privileged to move the Youth Development Programme into new premises situated in the Old Tramways building in Port Elizabeth in 2016, from which the YDP programmes are run.


The brainchild of Wilderness Foundation Africa CEO, Dr Andrew Muir, the Umzi Wethu model is currently a one year, social development and intervention programme for displaced and socially vulnerable youth. It draws on opportunities presented by gaps in various sectors including the hospitality and eco-tourism industry in South Africa. Piloted within the food and beverage side of the eco-tourism sector, specifically training junior chefs and waitrons, the first Umzi Wethu Academy was opened in Port Elizabeth in April 2006.  

Umzi Wethu has helped uplift well over 309 vulnerable youth in the Eastern, Western Cape and Northern Cape to obtain skills for employment in the conservation and hospitality industries. The key to the success of the Umzi Wethu model is job placement, either through permanent employment, internships or practical placements. An important part of this process is to raise funds for six month internships to ensure that once the students qualify from the vocational programme they can seamlessly fit in with the numerous WFA job placement partners and in the work environment. 


Key Focus Areas and Objectives of the Programme

Wellness (The Individual): To Improve the overall health and wellness (physical, psychological, social and spiritual) of all students to enable them to be economically active and productive.
Conservation (The Environment): To Improve the knowledge and respect for the environment through active engagement in conservation for vulnerable youth.
Social Responsibility (Community Development): To allow students and graduates to become socially responsible and contribute meaningfully to improve the communities they live in.
Sustainable Livelihoods (Financial Independence, Economic Growth): To provide the opportunity for graduates to attain a level of financial independence and stability from graduation and beyond.


• Since 2006, 65 400 youth have been through one of the projects of our Youth Development Programme at a spend of close to R70m, with most of these youth experiencing nature for the first time
• 309 vulnerable youth trained for jobs in conservation and hospitality through our year long Umzi Wethu training academy programme
• 944 vulnerable youth have been through our Siyazenzela leadership and livelihoods programme, providing them with access to short term accredited skills training opportunities in specific aspects of the hospitality industry such as Table Attendant Barista and Assistant Chef training
• Job placement rate of Umzi Wethu graduates is over 80% and job retention at 70%