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Building Resilience in our Youth: Azriel’s Story

At CAST, we believe that resilience is key to being able to deal with life’s challenges and bounce back from setbacks. In addition to our sport and discipleship programmes, we are excited to be running the Smart Moves Resilience programme as part of the national Life Orientation curriculum that will reach over 400 youth in our communities this year – many of whom have already shown great improvement in their level of engagement and participation at school.

The programme was piloted in 2018 at two schools in Phoenix, one of CAST’s target communities in KZN, with 115 learners in attendance. The Smart Moves curriculum is adopted from the resilience framework formulated by a UK-based resilience research group, BoingBoing, in the UK, with the aim of guiding children in the pre-teen age group to make “smart moves” as they navigate their way through adolescence and into adulthood. After regular sessions over a period of a few months, many of the learners reported enjoying the programme and teachers at the schools began to see significant improvement in the children’s conduct and willingness to learn.

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12-year-old Azriel Joseph from Mariannridge Primary School is one of 188 Grade Six learners who participate in CAST’s Resilience programme each week.

Azriel shares that he used to be shy, and was often bullied at school, afraid to speak up. Participating in the programme has helped him to overcome this and taught him valuable life lessons – how to be responsible, safe, and look out for others if they’re in trouble. “I used to hang out with the wrong crowds,” he says, “but now I’m deciding who to play with. It’s been a turning point.”

Like many children in his community, Azriel is being raised by a single mother since his parents’ separation 3 years ago. He feels a strong need for a relationship with his father, who has remarried, and often seeks support from uncles or through learning about his late grandfather, a former musician and Pastor. With an avid interest in music and Pastoral work himself, Azriel greatly looks up to his “Pa” as a role model, but sadly did not have the time to form a relationship with him as he was only four-years-old when he passed away.

The interactive lesson structure of the Resilience programme has given Azriel the confidence to “be real”, open up emotionally and share his thoughts with others, and has especially improved his communication with his mother. When he is going through a difficult time, Azriel now turns to his mother, a children’s day-care worker, a.k.a his “warrior”, for immediate support. Every morning before school, she helps him with his Mathematics homework, a subject he often struggles with. “That’s my enemy that I’m trying to conquer. My mum encourages me and tells me I’m going to pass.”

Azriel has also learnt the importance of having a relationship with God. He regularly attends church and is keenly involved as the drummer of the worship band. “Mum has been telling me that there’s only one way. There may be tough times, but God can help. I used to be sad and think there’s no hope. There is. Don’t give up. There’s a glimpse of hope. God can help me,” he says.

Azriel looks forward to starting high school in the next 2 years and wants to use what he has learnt to make good decisions for the future.

“Being in the programme has helped me to speak up and understand better who I am.”

If you are keen to make a difference in the lives of the youth in our communities, like Azriel, CAST is hosting the 10th Annual Boys Camp to provide boys without fathers an opportunity to learn about Manhood and Fatherhood as God intended. Sponsoring a boy will cost R400 p.p. For more info contact George Mwaura: george@cast.org.za or call (+27) 31 2668830.

CAST Banking Details:

Account name: CAST Trust

Bank: FNB

Branch code: 250655

Account no: 62762010248

REF: “BoysCamp”

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A Light on the Path: Lynette Pather’s story

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Lynette Pather is an experienced youth leader in the community of Phoenix in Durban, South Africa and has dedicated herself to helping the children and youth in her area through CAST’s Reading Intervention Programme for Grade 3s, and Life Skills Resilience Programme for Grade 7s.

She first joined CAST as a volunteer in 2017 when a pastor from Cornerstone Community Church went door-to-door around the neighbourhood to speak to youth and Sunday School teachers about the programmes that CAST was planning to implement in partnership with the Church.

Lynette then attended the training to become a facilitator for the programmes which she now volunteers for 3 times a week and is always willing to assist CAST when needed.

The reading intervention programme is aimed at helping children who did not receive adequate assistance at foundation phase to improve their skills in reading and comprehension at the appropriate level. Lynette assists a group of 10 learners and describes this as a trouble-free class.

The Resilience classes, however, pose more of a challenge for the facilitators. Lynette describes the Grade 7 learners, aged 12 – 13, as going through a transition phase into their teenage years, and find themselves unsure of how to deal with uncomfortable feelings and emotions when certain topics are raised. Some even become defensive and disruptive or begin making jokes to detract from serious subjects.

With an average of 40 children per class, it is not easy to manage. The facilitators, fortunately, have the support of the school but avoid disciplining the children, and instead, try to adopt a “love of Christ” approach towards unruly learners. Lynette believes the root of this behaviour is due to the prevalence of single-parent households or those with absent parents in the community and has seen how children as young as those she teaches are forced to take on the responsibility of parenting their younger siblings. Many of these single-parent households do not receive support due to the shame and stigma of being a ‘broken’ family. “We have to give honour to [single parents] instead of looking down on them,” she says.

Since the programme was implemented, Lynette has noticed a positive difference in the behaviour of learners that participated last year who now push themselves to attain good school marks in order to qualify for university. “They are more self-motivated, centred, and know that only they can make the decision to get out of the cycle of poverty,” she says.

Although the programme does not allow for the facilitators to share Christian teachings, as the learners of the school are religiously-diverse, they still offer encouragement and support to equip the learners with information to pursue further studies at tertiary level. Her dream for the children in the community is for them to “see the bigger picture.”

Lynette, herself, comes from a strong Christian family who founded and pastor Fountain of Hope Christian Centre in Phoenix. As a qualified Christian Counsellor with a diploma from the Logos Bible School, her many years of experience in youth ministry has grown her passion for serving the younger generation. Her advice to other leaders of young people is to “never give up until that person can see what God has for them, especially if you see a child with potential. Take that child’s dream, put it into your spirit, pray, and make it a reality.”

“I want to help the youth see the world differently,” she says. “There are so many opportunities. The world is for you.”

If you are keen to support these programmes or commit to tutoring and mentoring young people in our communities, contact CAST at info@cast.org.za or call (+27)31 266 8830.