If it terrifies you… Do it!
By Skhumbuzo Moodaley Mpisane, Head of Programs
Never in my wildest dreams had I thought I would find myself the Head of Programs and part of the leadership of enke, an organisation whose work I am deeply passionate and care about. To be honest, taking on the role to lead the work of enke’s programs is exciting but also terrifying. Terrifying because of the fear that I may not be worthy to be part of leading this incredible team of highly capable, competent, knowledgeable people who are changing the lives of young people in South Africa. But, I have decided to be excited and terrified, to lean into the fear and am determined to just do it.
I was born and raised in KwaZulu-Natal, more specifically uMlazi Township. It may be selective memory, but my life in uMlazi was one of the best and most formative experiences I have had (with the exception of always being the last picked to play in soccer matches). The experiences I had living in a township and visiting family in the rural areas of KwaZulu-Natal coupled with my undergraduate experience at the University of KwaZulu-Natal led me to fall in love with youth work.
While at University, I was part of various outreach programs that aimed to “improve” the lives of young people in the townships or rural areas. I say “improve” because these activities did not really lead to substantive change, even though, as individuals volunteering, we may have felt like we had done something. I never really felt we were effective enough and, in hindsight, felt sub-conscious frustration and wondering if and how we could do better to really address the social ills we were tackling. I suppose my journey in youth work seeking how to design effective and sustainable youth-focused programs began then.
I am not new to enke. My journey with enke began on 3 March 2014 (yes, I still remember the actual date), as a Trailblazer Program Coordinator. In my first year in that role I ran the logistics of the enke: Forum and provided CAP support to 81 bright-eyed Trailblazers. I remember the fear of that first year, but also the discovery of something more powerful than fear – being part of bringing about change and challenging the status quo. It was an experience of leaning into fear, of learning from mistakes and building my knowledge, capacity, competence and resilience. In my time as a Program Coordinator, I went on to bring 226 high school youth the Trailblazer Program, adding small innovations in support leading to the first 90% project implementation rate with the Class of 2015-16.
In 2016, I felt the need to grow and find new challenges, and so left the Program Coordinator role and enke. It wasn’t easy but, once more, I decided to lean into the fear. Since then, I have gone on build experience managing a team of people, youth projects and facilitating community engagement in Pietermaritzburg. I also started my own initiative, the Young Professionals League, which inspires young people through education with a vision of making quality education a norm and not a privilege. Through this work, I have become keenly interested in the formation of policy and legal frameworks that ensure that young people are impacted positively and substantively, but also make sure that young people are included and brought on board to be part of the process. Upon reflection, it is this desire to bring about change in the dynamic and unique way that only enke does (IMHO) that led me back to the organization after two and half years away.
Coming back to enke just made sense; enke’s approach to young people and fundamental belief in our (because technically I’m still a young person myself) capacity to create and lead solutions is the driving force behind my being back and taking on a new role in the organisation. To be honest, even when I was “away” I was never really away; I kept tabs on the organization, its work and the growth to new ways of building solutions and innovating in youth work. Now, as the Head of Programs, I want to continue building on the solid foundation that those before me have worked so hard to build. Beyond this, I want enke to grow beyond the borders of South Africa and am excited to work with Rufaro, the board and team to make it happen. Yes, it’s possible! I know it is possible even though, because of the fear, I still struggle to say “I am enke’s Head of Programs” with a straight face as it bewilders me to have such an honour and privilege. I’m once more leaning into the fear and tackling it head on because I now know that is the way to achieve the endless possibilities of what we can achieve with enke and beyond.
So, in some ways, this is not just to (re)introduce myself to the enke network (that said – Hi, I’m Skhumbuzo). It is dedicated to all those who have stopped dreaming because of the fear of failure, or the fear that they might not be enough because they are from uMlazi or any other place they feel is not worthy. To those
who stopped believing they could change the world and challenge the injustice but gave up because the system was not going to let it be that easy, I say, “If it terrifies you…. Do it!”