Youth Development

Goedgedacht Trust

"Teen and pre-teen pregnancy has dropped and increasingly Path-out-of-Poverty (POP) graduates are having their first babies in their 20s, as sober women, equipped to nurture their babies. The POP programme has shown it is possible to make a difference by encouraging social cohesion, stability and the healing of past hurts."

The Goedgedacht Trust, headquartered at Kasteelberg near Malmesbury, is a Western Cape community development trust, developed 23 years ago.  Its focus is on helping rural children and youth in West Coast and Boland towns to break free from the entrapment of the long-entrenched cycle of generational poverty.

Its innovative Path-Out-of-Poverty (POP) programme takes a multi-faceted approach and is based on the premise that appropriate early intervention in education, health care, personal development and environmental awareness can lead to transformed rural communities and substantial savings in social spending by Government. The Distell Foundation is a major supporter of this initiative.

Working with vulnerable youth in the Swartland, Riebeek Kasteel, Riebeek West, Paarl and the Cederberg, the programme focuses on life-skills training to improve decision-making. It runs projects during the school term, as well as on weekends and holidays, and includes drama therapy interventions. Participants are also taught skills in theatre craft, from acting, directing and script-writing to more technical skills such as sound, lighting and management, enhancing their career and job opportunities.

As far as possible, POP centres are staffed by young people from their local communities. Explains Goedgedacht director, Ingrid Lestrade: "It is critical that we build leadership amongst young people. Rural communities need young men and women with integrity, who are passionate about making a contribution in their own environment. Our long-term vision is to have rural communities with young, healthy, confident and educated people who have completed the POP programme.  We want to see young people take up leadership roles amongst their own."

Each centre provides those in its care one nutritious meal a day and runs "surrogate parenting" projects that provide safe spaces for very poor children many of whom have been badly damaged by poverty.

An important element of the POP programme is the focus on caring for the planet. With predictions that the west coast of Southern Africa will become progressively hotter and drier, poverty in the region could be exacerbated. Against this background, POP also teaches children how to take care of their physical environment in a way that makes them eco-aware through its energy-saving and biodiversity conservation programmes.

It is seeing dramatic results from its integrated interventions. "In 1998 we found that virtually all farm children from the Riebeek River Valley dropped out of school before the fifth academic year. Now all POP members go to high school, many complete their matric or at least reach Grade 10 and go on to get jobs," says Lestrade.

"Teen and pre-teen pregnancy has dropped and increasingly POP graduates are having their first babies in their 20s, as sober women, equipped to nurture their babies.

"The POP programme has shown it is possible to make a difference by encouraging social cohesion, stability and the healing of past hurts."

Goedgedacht

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