Every year on Mandela Day (18 July), I tend to reflect on the state of the nation. It has become a habit of mine to think about where South Africa was before 1994 and where it is now just to remind myself of how far we’ve come and generally I feel optimistic and positive about where we are headed as a country, even with all of the issues that we face.
This year, however, was different. I don’t know whether it was the fact that I was going through a difficult time personally or whether it was the fact that the ANC is doing everything in its power to lose its voters to the DA and EFF, but I was feeling particularly pessimistic about the future of South Africa. With Nkandla, the SABC’s censorship debacle, Nene-gate and the Rand’s performance during 2016, things were looking dire. Is it surprising, then, that I was not feeling particularly optimistic about the future?
Until Saturday 23 July, that is:
A friend of mine has started a non-profit organization recently, Ubuhle Development Foundation. The foundation aims to pair high school learners in grade 11 and grade 12 up with young professionals who are already in the workforce, but who are still young enough to be relateable, in order to provide mentoring and guidance to these learners about careers and jobs which may be of interest to them. I think that this is a fantastic initiative because I know how valuable the advice of a young professional was when I was making decisions about my future 5 years ago and therefore when my friend asked me whether I was keen on joining the initiative, I jumped at the opportunity to give back to those who are making those same decisions now.
So, after the chairperson (Mpumie) and his team worked for months to get the program up and running, a bunch of us drove down to Vredenburg on 23 July to attend the official opening function of the foundation.
Initially I joined the initiative because I wanted to help fill a need in our society. I knew that a good mentor when one is in need of guidance is an invaluable tool to have because often a mentor can tell one more than an internet search ever could. I, however, never even considered the effect that this would have on me personally.
This past week was rough for me. I had three different doctor’s appointments and I was just feeling particularly tired and demotivated, so I almost fabricated an excuse to miss the event, but I forced myself to attend and I do not regret it. In fact, I am extremely grateful that I did.
Seeing how much the initiative meant to the mentees just reinvigorated my spirits. It was a much needed reminder that I am still, in some small way, valuable to society and that I have the power to help shape society for the better. Often people complain about millennials and about the technology generation, but initiatives like these prove that we have the power and the capacity to put technology to good use, that we are able to influence those who come after us and that we can believe in ourselves and in others enough to take risks in order to help improve our collective futures. Seeing someone who went to school with me doing such amazing work is inspiring, to say the least. I am feeling positive and optimistic about the future of South Africa again.
It was also wonderful to interact with other people who are in the workforce and to listen to their advice. As the baby mentor (I am the only one who is not yet entirely in the workforce), I used the event as an opportunity to learn as much as I could from those who are more experienced than I am. The advice of the mentors was as valuable to me as it was to the mentees, if not more so, considering my mood going into the event and my anxiety at finally entering the workforce.
It is selfish, but the Ubuhle Development Foundation’s opening function was in many ways more important to me than it was to the mentees and I am so grateful that I got out of bed and attended the event instead of coming up with a reason not to go.
If you are interested in learning more about Ubuhle Development Foundation, you can check out their website and Facebook page.