Rufaro’s Reflections on Catalyst Re-Boot Training Retreat
It’s hard to describe the feeling when you witness an idea become reality; when something that was just in your head or words on paper becomes a living, breathing, tangible thing. It’s completely indescribable. As the first shuttle parked and the first of our Catalyst participants stepped out and signed in – an idea, the enke: Catalyst Program, became a terrifying, wonderful reality. I imagine that this is how Pip, Tom and Kat (the co-founders of enke) might have felt the morning of that first Forum in 2009.
The idea of the enke: Catalyst Program was born in 2015 from conversations with young people who shared their sense of hopelessness and frustration in a society and economy that they felt was increasingly excluding them from accessing opportunities. In South Africa almost 8 million young people between the ages of 15-24 find themselves in a particularly vulnerable situation, as they are not in employment, education or training (NEET), and are potentially unable to improve their future employability through investment in skills or gain experience through employment.
NEET is a difficult label to escape in more ways than one. International and local research shows that the longer someone is NEET, the harder it is to get a job, get back into education or start a business. These are the mechanisms and/or systems are often the only way to get the information, build the networks and mobilise the resources needed to improve our lives, do better for ourselves and our family. It has emotional and psychological impact as self-confidence and self-belief is eroded with every failed tertiary application, every unanswered job application, every time the question “what are you doing?” that can’t be answered. With over 500,000 youth dropping out of school between Grade 10 and 12 and thousands more excluded for financial or academic reasons from university every year – the number of youth joining the “NEET” category is growing.
With Catalyst, our goal is to contribute to the effort to change this. Our approach is as different as all of our programs are in the youth development sector. A “catalyst” is something that causes change or action. In designing this program our goal is to best equip the young people to be their own catalysts, to autonomously achieve their self-defined success.
Up until the point that the first person signed in, Catalyst was hours spent on research, interviews, writing proposals for funding, sleepless nights designing curriculum, formatting workbooks, reading applications, phone calls, consent forms. Before this, we had run over 15 enke: Forums, trained over 1750 high school learners and post-secondary students, but we had never worked with youth from this type of vulnerability before.
And this Catalyst Re-Boot Training Retreat was the beginning. And it was amazing. It has filled me with hope that we can make a difference in the lives of young people who are being structurally and systematically ignored. More importantly, that these young people will feel that they can make that difference for themselves.
Here are some pictures of Re-Boot:
Re-Boot is just the start of the program and our journey.
There are 6 months left of building an enterprise, learning practical employability skills and network building. It’s not about us placing them into employment and creating pathways; it’s about them placing themselves and creating paths for themselves with confidence.