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I arrived in Durban, South Africa exactly two weeks ago from today. So far, I feel as if I have just been constantly running, on and on with no stop. From our stay at the Ecolodge, our excursions up the hill to the breathtaking beachfront, and our tour of the Bangladeshi Market: home of the spiciest samosas and brightest, most alluring marigolds I’ve seen in my life. The excitement heightened the day I was welcomed into the home of Mrs. Bassier who is THE woman to know when it comes to Wentworth. Being a guest in her home, my ears have been privy to a host of fantastic stories. They range from her days as a cheeky student sliding down a spiraling stairwell to being in the same room as Nelson Mandela and the ANC during peace negotiations towards the back end of Apartheid. Like I said, THE woman to know. Yet, of all the things in Durban that I have heard, seen, smelled or tasted there is one that I rises above the others.

“While we are disappointed now, we are very hopeful in our youth.”

On multiple separate occasions, tour guides, politicians, and community members alike have voiced their hope for the rising youth of South Africa. Not only is this sentiment articulated but I have seen it as well. It’s shown in the way Mrs. Bassier invests her time in caring for, tutoring and loving her budding grandsons. I see it in the determined manner local fathers trudge up the hill every morning at the crack of dawn to ensure their children make it to school on time. I even saw it in my first week working at Blue Roof Life Space.  When I first entered the building, I was expecting a busy HIV Clinic. Rather, I was shown halls painted bright colors of yellow, red, blue and green and rooms filled with toys and books. As I ventured further in, I saw a large three-fold poster showcasing three kids doing different activities. At the top, Blue Roof’s logo as well as its slogan: Heal. Dream. Create. At the moment, I didn’t think much of it and went to meet the people I’d be working with for the day, Matt and Lungelo. They were so pleased to see me and quickly exclaimed, “Youth Day is on Friday! There’s so much to do!”. I thought the first day was going to be relaxed, nothing serious. It was the total opposite! I was making phone calls to confirm event attendance, running up and down the stairs moving chairs and tables, and organizing volunteer orientation. There was no time to slow down. In four days we were hosting, entertaining and feeding 300 local youths from Wentworth to celebrate Youth Day. Apart from the fact that it was a national holiday, I didn’t even know what Youth Day was nor it’s purpose. Yet, from all the preparation, I could tell it was a big deal.

The days of preparation flew by and Youth Day arrived swiftly. Throughout the whole process I was lost, just following the motions and helping out wherever needed. Yet, when I walked into Blue Roof on Youth Day the clear visual of the fruits of our labor made it all finally click. Heal. The health zone (run by our clinical staff and pregnancy counseling) fostered an environment where the adolescents could engage in conversation and express their own interpretation of well-being that pertains to their hearts, their minds and their bodies. The facilitators were also available to administer HIV and pregnancy tests for youths that were concerned about their health. Dream. The career center presented a colorful and interactive space that informed students of the different career paths they could pursuit.  Further, it provided resources that act as a step by step guide so students can have a feasible plan and sense of direction. Create. The arts zones, Lalela and City Celebration, demonstrated different ways (art and dance) that students could truly express themselves and have an end product to take pride in. Additionally, this does not only apply to the arts but to projects or service endeavors they may engage in the future.

Heal, Dream, Create. You can’t have one without the other. Youth Day was all about fostering relationships between the local youths in Wentworth and the Blue Roof staff. More than anything the staff has made it very clear that  they want to be mentors and a source of empowerment and love for adolescents. All in all, Blue Roof is yet another group in Wentworth that is truly, fully and wholly dedicated to its youth. Why?  Youth is refreshing. Youth is innovative. Youth is fearless. Youth is fun. Youth is our future.