A month of celebrating our youth in South Africa has been clouded by the recent, tragic deaths of twenty-one children at a tavern in East London. This horrible event has emphasised the importance, and vital need, for structured environments for young people to enjoy and grow up in.
According to a study conducted by Dartmouth College, structured and fun activities for youth positively impact health-related behaviour. It was found that those who participated in such activities engaged in less hazardous drinking and drug use than those who did not. Furthermore, even though a person may not be participating during all of their free time, the simple sense of being part of something bigger than oneself reduces risky behaviour.
In a rural area like ours, youth are typically limited in options for diverse and age-appropriate extracurricular activities. Through our Vibrant Villages Programme, young people in our community are able to enjoy creativity, self-expression, a healthy lifestyle and respect for the environment. We use local radio, surf therapy, soccer & netball tournaments, and talent shows to provide youth with opportunities to come together in a constructive and healthy way. These activities are further supported by caring role models and coaches who promote an inclusive environment rather than one that focuses on winning.
This month, we hosted a Youth Day sports tournament for our four villages in netball and soccer, and a surf competition for our Thatha iLiza surf-therapy team. Each event used the power of coming together through sport to educate our youth on difficult topics such as unemployment and mental health, give back to our community through a beach clean-up, and most importantly, enjoy each other’s company and strengthen social cohesion. We believe that it is essential for the safety and healthy development of our young people to create these positive environments for play.