Although the 2010 World Cup may have already ended, it appears as though it will continue to be of lasting significance to some of South Africa’s youngsters through the launch of the Youth Zones Programme. The effort is a collaboration between the Foundation for a Safe South Africa (FSSA), The Dutch Embassy, the Institute for democracy in South Africa (IDASA) and the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Organising Committee (LOC), and it signifies the start of what is hoped will be a sustainable and transformative venture.
The programme maintains a commitment to social development by encouraging youths from thirteen disadvantaged regions to take part in projects ranging from football sessions to computer literacy lessons to life skills programs. Each of these three main platforms attempts to teach, nurture and prepare young people for success.
‘It’s not about just kicking a ball, it’s about the social relations inherent in a team, the family dynamic that provides energy, support and accountability; that’s why we use football and even netball teams to learn and become change agents in their communities,’ says Schalk van Heerden, the Project Coordinator. The approach is built on a social and relational model where friendships form the foundation for sustainable actions and programs.
What’s more, the project offers a spectrum of opportunities to children who may have previously felt trapped in cycles of deprivation. Every stage of the project aims to equip South Africa’s children with aspirational intuition and demonstrate just how tangible and achievable their dreams are by arming them with invaluable skills. The provision of choices beyond the limits of what many disadvantaged youngsters are afforded can transform and save lives – this notion has proven to be at the heart of the Youth Zone’s mission.
It is hoped that future reflections of the legacy of the 2010 FIFA South African World Cup, will not simply conjure up memoires of a single euphoric moment in the nation’s history, but rather that the World Cup will represent a starting point for an enduring journey that many of the country’s children will undertake. Sowing the seeds by investing in the social fabric of South African society can only reap future rewards and endeavours like Youth Zones aspire to make this vision a reality.