20 years ago, the world around me spoke of a different future than that which is apparent in my life as I write this article. I was a dusty, skinny little boy whose future in his own eyes and in the eyes of those around him could not go as far as he could toss a pebble. Life back then was as good for me as those around me could afford to let it be. I didn’t have the audacity to dream. Now, I stand before Ministers and they listen. I live in a world of endless opportunities and a valley of citizens who believe that I am as good as I limit myself be. This world is the YMCA and S2C.
I was introduced to The Subject 2 Citizen Concept as an Ambassador in 2012. Since then, I have learned of various empowerment tools and have been taught how to employ them. The principles that we have been taught in S2C has without doubt, shaped my life. Outside the YMCA, I have been able to c
onfront, analyse and solve issues. I have also been able to deal with issues in my past too and freed myself from restrictive thinking that emanated from the voices of failure that spoke to me based on my poor background or the mistakes I made in the past as a young person. S2C has given me a belief that hard work and a strong will, can only lead to the changes I want to see.
Through S2C’s Mentorship Program, I have learned that I can learn a lot from those ahead of me and that those behind me will learn from me. I have been transformed through my relationship with my mentor. He is a Doctor in Education and a master in communication; from him I have learned how to express myself as a leader. I have also shared my learnings with him. Our interaction and inter-changes have developed me as both a young leader and a well-rounded person.
In February we, as Ambassadors, took part in the training in Kenya. This was before the elections held there this year. The belief we saw in the eyes and heard in the voices of young people we met was astounding and inspiring. They believed that the violence that happened during the last elections in their country would never happen. Many of them, including the Kenyan S2C Ambassadors spoke and engaged each other on Peace for Kenya, a reality that stands true today. This for me was a testament among many that I have seen in the two years I have been an S2C Ambassador. Youths have it within themselves to engage issues and lead to their solution. Today, I witness, as we share on WhatsApp Group Chats, Facebook pages and on other social forums, that young people are doing formerly unthinkable ‘miracles’ in their countries. They engage with leaders and policy makers to address youth issues and change the course of their futures and that of their peers; this is true citizenship in action.
Africa is plagued by many challenges and unfortunately the youth are usually associated with the causes of the bulk of them. Unemployment, in most cases, has been labelled as the “laziness” of young people while policies are ignore youth needs continue to stifle growth and innovation. Moreover, the youth have been left out in the making and definition of the continents’ agendas internally and externally, yet youth today are more ‘global’ than ever before in Africa's history. Africa needs more Citizens today for the African Renaissance. It needs youths who are willing to claim space and influence. I am one of them who will dare do so.
As Citizens we need engagement at all levels of decision making in Africa. The future is not in the past but the past serves to inform the future, this realisation will lead to a better reality tomorrow. Africa has the means to change its fortunes. S2C has adopted the Stop Poverty Campaign in advocacy and that is a giant step, only citizens can stop poverty. As ‘Citizens Moving Forward’, we have started a process that will empower Africa; ambassadors are campaigning for change in their countries, calling policy makers to change undesirable policies in economics, education and politics. As young people we want to have voices in issues affecting us and our peers in other countries. We have the desire to speak on why African Leaders cannot ignore youth issues in Zimbabwe, Kenya, Sudan, Egypt or Ethiopia. We want to be counted. We are leaders of today because yesterday’s tomorrow has begun.
True African Renaissance is the empowerment that allows Africa to take charge and define its today and tomorrow. Africa has the potential to be a global player in even the heaviest of issues that the world faces. There is no reason why the deadliest of wars are fought in Africa and peace is never known in its dusty streets. An era has to come and with S2C it has begun to addresses the ability of each man, women and child to empower Africa.
Africa has a rich history and a heavily pregnant future. It has stories to tell and as Ambassadors we are telling these stories because unless we do, only those looking to exploit us will tell them. It is the role of young people to do this, it is our role as youths to make new stories, shape a better tomorrow and invest our skills in the African Renaissance. Youth the world over can sing with us because it’s a song for Youth, a song for CHANGE.
This morning I woke up and visited the World Alliance web page. This has become a habit since I became a Change Agent. On the page I met a question ‘How relevant is the YMCA Today?’ Thinking about this, I remembered the story of a young woman I have grown to know in the YMCA at my local movement. Each story is worth telling and each stride in the journey to realising our great potentials as a people, worth heralding. I hope this story of change will inspire you to tell the world your story too.
Primrose Maradzike was born to a family of five and is the second youngest child. Her parents like many fathers and mothers in the world, loved their five children. Prim, as she is better known to her close friends, enjoyed that love and couldn’t imagine life without her loving parents. She was enrolled into a good school for her grade one, had clothing and food at the right times. However as her history would lament, this wasn’t to be enjoyed for long. She lost her parents in a road accident the same year she started her first grade. The accident claimed both their lives and instantly orphaned her and her four siblings.
The sudden stark reality of new found sadness and pain dawned in the life of this six-year-old and life was to change drastically. She remembers how at the funeral she and her siblings were divided among her maternal family like spoils of war. Her father’s family, fearing the burden of responsibility, distanced themselves, so her maternal family stepped up. During all this, a whirlwind of emotions brewed and stewed in her little mind, she was young and how would she face life without her parents and brothers close by? Did the God above even care about girls like her, did He have a plan for her and if He did, what was it? These questions lingered deep each day, even as she grew older. To add to the spiritual and mental tsunami, her environment also changed. Her new home was in the rural village and her new school was one she had never even thought she’d walk into in her life. She knew in all of this that it wasn’t her choice and that if there was a reset button; she would die to push back the hands of time.
Inevitably, that little girl grew up. Just like a rose that blooms from dust and mud, she sprouted into a beautiful young woman. Her smile never gives testimony to the pain she once bore. The woman she is now was a product of a lot of things, just like the rose gets water, sunshine and organic matter to grow. Primrose’s education wasn’t easy, given her reality as an orphan; she survived on ‘change’, little scraps after all priorities were met. Sooner than later she found herself queuing for financial assistance from donor organisations. She found help from Capernaum Trust, an organisation that pays for school fees for orphaned children and later in her life she was to get assistance from a Cadetship program for her tertiary education. She attributes a big part of her growth to Capernaum Trust, under which she was taken through counseling. This helped her psychologically to cope with life as an orphan. Now Primrose studies with Kwekwe Polytechnic doing a Diploma in Human Resources.
It was during her internship year that she came in contact with the YMCA. As part of her course, Primrose had to find attachment at a company or organisation and for her it was with the YMCA. She didn’t know how her time with this organisation would change her life for the better. The following months that she was attached, opened her world, she began to see a world of possibilities and empowerment both as a young person and a woman.
One of the programmes, Primrose was exposed to was the Transformative Masculinity programme. In her own words “Transformative Masculinity helped me know my rights and responsibilities as a young woman. The YMCA has also boosted my morals as a follower of Christ.” The program is about changing masculinity in youth from hegemonic and dominant state to one of choice, respect and equality. She believes that normally, society would define her as an outsider, good for nothing and incapable of doing great things. However through the YMCA, she learnt that even orphans can be awesome, “I met an S2C Ambassador who has a similar background to mine and by spending time with him, sharing the S2C Concept and opening Y Clubs, I realised that I too can do more in life.” It was at this time that she committed herself to become a member of the YMCA and to taking control of her future.” S2C has helped shape my life and I believe it will for a lifetime. I share it with other people any time I can. My family have also expressed the desire to join the YMCA and as soon as I get the forms I will enroll them all.” It is also worth noting that she and other youths have helped form an activity group in Gweru.
“S2C has made me into an effective, efficient and competent young person. I want to provide quality in my line of career, be the best I can ever be. I know my past and I am at peace with it. It is my hope that through the YMCA, I will inspire other orphans and ‘vulnerable’ youths... make them see that they are not victims but victors and they can be AWESOME!” Furthermore she expressed her desire to be happily married one day to a man who doesn’t only fear God but will be a citizen, believing in the greatness in everyone. Her life is however not without challenges. She still has a year to finish in her studies, she needs financial assistance for that to happen and in the technological world of computers, she now needs to submit her soft-copy assignments but doesn’t have a computer. Her song through all this is “I will never be the same again” by Hillsong, inspired into her life by Gil Harper of the AAYMCA. God has led her this far and God will always make a way.
169 years after George Williams founded the YMCA, to give hope and strengthen the morals of young people, it is amazing how that vision and mission remains strongly woven in the movement. Thank you to all who make this happen. Each day a youth joins our movement, hope is shared. Every minute the doors of the YMCA open, and each day we share a smile with a broken heart, each time we stand to share our experiences and the programs we offer the world, we empower, inspire and change the people around us. So lets, find our voices, occupy and own our spaces and together we can Influence a change in the world.
By Raymond Ncube, S2C Ambassador, Zimbabwe YMCA
If there is one important YMCA story I feel obliged to tell, it is the story of my personal development – my contact with the YMCA, my choice of taking a YMCA membership and getting involved with capacity building programs and the corresponding empowerment the YMCA has given me.
I came in contact with the YMCA some 12 years ago when I was still a student in middle school. Up to that time, I was a very shy boy with very low self-esteem and without the slightest idea of what I would like to become. Little did I know that I had potentials which could be developed to effect change in the lives of other young people. I recall quite well my very first attendance at a YMCA youth gathering. It was a youth meeting of the Harbel YMCA in May 2001. At the meeting I was asked to make a motion for the adoption of the agenda. It was quite an enormous task for me, having had no prior experience of participating in discussion at a meeting. I stood up, dumbfounded, not knowing what to say or how to begin. The presiding officer, knowing full well that I did not know what to say, taught me how to make a motion. She began somewhat like “I move that…” and I repeated after her. In a moment, I was able to make a motion without repeating someone else’s words, though with much stuttering – the kind usually associated with crowd, shyness and low self-confidence.
This began my most profound story of empowerment through the YMCA. From this moment forward, I began paying regular visits to the YMCA and participating in activities. Thanks to a classmate and other peers of mine who kept pulling me by my shoe strings to attend YMCA programs. Though I could prove reluctant and would attempt to shy away, my colleagues would not give up. They would come to my house and literally whisk me off to the YMCA where we studied together; played sports; debated different topics; set goals; identified role models and reference groups to associate with; and participate in discussions of wide range of issues – the future, education, career choices, etc.
Meanwhile I could feel myself developing. I started to excel in my studies. I don’t know how, but I could feel something inside me being awakened. My potential was now developing and taking shape! In no time I saw myself acting as recording secretary, a clerk and intern in the office of the Executive Director. Once a poor writer and lazy reader, I began writing letters and recording minutes, and doing reports. As time went on, I acquired typing skills (using a typewriter owned by the YMCA), and I began playing a more active leadership role.
Fast forward to 2008 when I was elected as national youth chairman of the YMCA of Liberia. My election as national youth chairman came with greater responsibilities and even still greater opportunities for personal development and empowerment. A once shy and seemingly hopeless fellow, I began representing the YMCA at many national youth forums. Many young people soon started to see me as a role model. My younger siblings all began to see me as a mentor and a guardian.
Once an introverted fellow without much prospect of providing leadership to other young people, I am now very hopeful, empowered and actively help to provide empowerment opportunities for other young people. I am leading efforts at different levels, using my voice and skills to call attention to the plight and needs of young people in Liberia. At the YMCA I am playing an active leadership role; at school my teachers and fellow students count me as a model worth referencing. Generally, among my peers, I am seen as an opinion leader in youth matters. The YMCA has given me skills and employment that enable me to earn and pay for my schooling and cost of living and partly cater to the needs of my younger siblings. Nothing could be more empowering. This is empowerment par excellence.