Sinners become ‘saints’

PHIRI CAWE

Twenty young people graduated from a Leadership and Conflict Resolution programme run by Project Playground’s Great Corner in Langa.

The once troubled youth have now joined the battle for a crime and drug-free Langa.

Project Playground (PPG) started Great Corner in early 2013 as a response to the major problems of violence, crime and gangsterism among the youth in Langa.

Project Playground’s co-founder Frida Vesterberg said one of the main objectives of Great Corner was to create partnerships with the police, the department of Social Development and other organisations to give the youth a voice in matters which affect them.

She said Great Corner took the initial step to recruit youth from PPG’s operations who were seen to be at risk and create a “community intervention gang”. The affected youth needed to have the commitment and the potential to work

towards preventing youth from getting involved in crime.

At the graduation ceremony on Friday April 8, the youth were acknowledged for the contribution they have made in Langa.

“It is with this conviction that Great Corner was created with the aim of offering these young people an alternative. The vision of Great Corner is to have a society free from crime, to eradicate violence and to ensure that young people can be just that without society’s structure pushing them toward a life of isolation, alienation and dependence. We want to actively engage in prevention and intervention strategies with and by young people through identifying individuals and helping them to not only change their own lives, but also to become ‘a true reflection of change’,” she said.

Ms Vesterberg called on parents at the graduation ceremony to encourage young people to truly make a sustainable change in Langa. She also encouraged the youth to take every opportunity they get in life.

Some people spoke about the mistakes they had made in their lives and pledged never to repeat them.

Thembalethu Maqungu is still bitter about the 12 years of his life he spent in prison for murder. While he was in a single cell without anything constructive to do, the 43-year-old learnt the art of paper mache. After his release from prison, he was lucky to be able to join PPG, which has started many projects for Langa youth.

Instead of moaning and groaning about lost time, Mr Maqungu accepted the fact that he can never turn back the clock. Today he is working as a tutor, teaching primary school pupils art while pursuing his entrepreneurship dream.

As a 14-year-old boy growing up in the gritty streets of Langa, Sonwabo Bomvana did not really have cause to think much about his own future. Instead, he went around robbing people. He was jailed for 15 years for his crimes.

Fast forward to this year and he has not only become a known motivator in Langa but a great entertainer too. He is happy to have come through the ranks of PPG and Great Corner.

Quite soon young Lerato Letuna will meet Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace, for the Queen Young Leader’s Award. Ms Letuna has been a member of different initiatives, including Girl Pride. “I am proud enough to say I was taught in Sweden but grew up in South Africa. I will be meeting the queen (and seeing her with my own eyes),” she said. This is all thanks to the PPG programme called “Who am I?” which mobilises youth by initiating dialogue and discussion on topics such as self-image, self-esteem, goals, problems and causes and consequences and challenges which exist around them in their everyday lives.

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