Reading club demonstrates resilience

Reading club members enjoying their camp.

MALUSI NTOYAPI

The KwaFaku Vulindlela Reading Club in Lower Crossroads has since 2011 always been about creating conditions for children to grow their curiosity, languages, and confidence and become functionally literate.

This is done in various ways, through literature, conversations, creative arts, oral storytelling, use of the children’s languages, improving home book ownership, writing for a purpose, adventures, critical thinking, and community activations.

We believe the club has become a home away from home for its members who have found the space to be meaningful to them. The club has become a social space that contributes to the character-building of its members. The club meets every Saturday morning at Philippi East library next to the police station.

Post-Covid-19 lockdown, as we resumed our Saturday sessions and asked the children why they came back to the club. Here are some of their responses:

Because I loved being at the reading club and learning.

Because I was missing the energy and the vibe.

I missed being around people.

It’s because it keeps me away from negative things from where I live.

The reading club space is perceived to be a place of belonging. Many young people in our communities need spaces that see them and give them a voice. It seems like the club is a fountain of love, belonging, learning, care, safety, exploration and good vibes.

In October we embarked on our annual weekend adventure in the wilderness. We explored the world beyond Lower Crossroads and pages of books. Most of our members do not get an opportunity to explore alternative places of interest and nature beyond their community. Exposure to different environments is important for one’s life trajectory. In our weekend away we worked on ourselves, as we continue to understand ourselves and others. This adventure will surely unlock a world of possibilities for us beyond the camping experience.

The reading club has evolved. The population of the club is now mainly teenagers who have been part of the club for several years. One of the teenagers who took a gap year after matric has made a financial contribution towards the camp adventure. Furthermore, the children, through running four market days to raise funds for their camp, further engaged their caregivers to make a donation.

We also raised funds online while private funding also backed us. We are grateful for all the support we received that ensured that all young people who attended the camp went home with gifts they wrote on their wish list.

As the club continues to reimagine itself, the next generation of teenagers are being prepared to continue to lead the club.

We are proud of the teenagers as they played an important role in ensuring their camp was a success. They identified the camp venue, arranged transport, and led all the market days including recording and banking funds they have raised. Throughout this journey, they learnt to invest in things that are of interest to them. They are currently in the most difficult phase of their lives, being teenagers. The teenagers that are part of our club confront many challenges daily. As part of their feedback following the camp, they said the weekend away gave them the much-needed break that allowed them to spend time working on themselves and picking up tools that will help them in their life journeys.

As the club continues to evolve beyond literature and literacy the teenagers have expressed their commitment in ensuring the club carries on. The evolution encouraged us to meet teenagers where they are. We had to take them to university open days, engage them on their career paths, futures, work on academic support, life skills and leadership. In 2021 we had our first group in Grade 12, this year we have cohorts too.

As we are about to take the festive season break, we celebrate everyone who continues to walk this journey with us. The community of Lower Crossroads with its challenges has always supported our initiative in different ways.

A big shout out to our friends from all walks of life for their willingness to always support us from guest facilitation and sharing resources with us. We appreciate the Philippi East Public Library for providing us with a space to hold our sessions every Saturday. Siyabulela – we thank the caregivers who allow their children to attend the sessions and build something special for themselves.

It is important that we all continue to create bridges for children to explore worlds beyond their immediate environment. Young people need to be exposed to nature or different environments to build their resilience and hopefulness. As communities, we need to continue supporting our young people even when they fail or make mistakes. Supporting young people is supporting a prosperous future for South Africa that we all imagine and want to live in.

Follow us on Facebook @KwaFaku-Vulindlela Reading Club.

• Malusi Ntoyapi is a club volunteer.