Cape Town is loved for its diversity and many locals are intrigued by these differences but seldom venture to discover more about fellow Capetonians. Salesian Life Choices, a youth development organisation, is addressing differences and encouraging integration among youth in the Cape Flats communities through its Diversity Exchange activity.
The Exchange, as it is also known, is part of the organisation’s Leaders’ Quest intervention. The activity enables Grade 11 learners to pair with a peer from a different community and culture for 24 hours – 120 learners from 12 Cape Town schools have taken part this year.
Charnell Heuwel from Bonteheuwel and Thandeka Lokoza from Gugulethu have never been to the communities of each other. They have been paired through the exchange and they both say they have only read and heard stories about the respective communities. However they are both excited to know the areas for themselves and are curious to know about each others homes, schools and
The Exchange encourages youth to break borders and venture into areas where ordinarily they would never have gone. It pairs two young people from different cultures to spend 48 hours together. One day one of the youth will host and the other day she/he will be the guest.
For some learners like Siyolise Dubani this meant taking a train to school for the first time. “It was the first time I had ever taken a train; normally I just take a five-minute walk to school, taking the train was an interesting experience. It made me value my situation,” says Siyolise from Philippi.
“The motivation behind Leaders’ Quest is to mould a generation of younger leaders from developing communities to contribute to a greater South Africa. The intervention does that by working with youth to be more self-aware and able to self-manage. The intervention also works with improving social awareness and social management capabilities,” says Salesian Life Choices Managing Director, Sofia Neves.
Encouraged to get out of their comfort zone and experience diversity, many participants said they felt most insecure about the language
barrier as youth from an English/Afrikaans community are paired with an isiXhosa-speaking one.
“I was nervous about not being able to communicate but it wasn’t bad at all – I had a good experience because all the learners were
really friendly and accepted me as one of their friends,” says Alzona Klein, a Grade 11 learner from Athlone who was paired with
Sivuyiswe Mazwane from CrossRoads.
In its third year, The Diversity Exchange has been described as a life-changing experience by many learners. “Youth have told us that they have learned many skills, this includes: how to overcome fear; the ability to develop their own opinions based on facts; to value diversity and develop empathy for fellow citizens; and to accept their circunstances. Overall, almost every youth mastered the art of gratitute by realising that independent of where they came from, there are still many things to be thankful for,” says Sofia.
For others like Alzona, the exchange represented a new but familiar living arrangement as her peer partner, Sivuyiswe lives with her two sisters in a shack. “I felt nervous about the experience and going to her home made me think of a time when my family and I lived in a shack. Her family was very welcoming, I loved getting to know a new community and experiencing life in her home,” says Alzona.
Exposed to new homes, schools and cultures the Diversity Exchange youth all agree that even though we all look different on the surface and our homes and families might not be similar, we are united in our pursuit of happy lives. And as an educator expressed, if we want a South Africa that no longer uses the terms others, them or those people we need to encourage youth integration at all levels.