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Chrysalis Academy rebuilds troubled lives

Written by Samona Murugan
The Chrysalis Academy in the Western Cape, is transforming troubled teens into confident young adults, through its massive developmental programmes.

Emerging from the Chrysalis Academy as motivated individuals, Patrick Stungwa and Zama Thasana are now employed as interns at the Academy. They are seen with Academy CEO Lucille Meyer.Founded by the provincial Cabinet in 2000 and funded by the Western Cape departments of community safety, education, cultural affairs and sport, social development, transport and public works, the academy which is situated on the Porter estate in the suburb of Tokai, is a beacon of hope and offers youngsters the chance to turn their lives around.

According to Academy CEO Lucille Meyer, many youngsters who enter the Chrysalis process are disconnected. They are withdrawn, vulnerable, some have resorted to using drugs, and many come from abused households.

The academy’s aim is to tackle substance abuse and the gang culture that is rife in Cape Town’s disadvantaged communities. Each year, the academy hosts two all-boy and one all-girl empowerment training programmes which run for three months at a time. The programme focuses on the physical, emotional, mental, energetic and spiritual development of learners. To qualify, learners have to be between the ages of 17 and 25, have a minimum of a Grade 9 pass, have no criminal record and be unemployed.

The programme is carried out in four stages: The Orientation Phase teaches learners to adapt to the daily routine. Here they set goals for themselves and commit to learning. The Outdoor Phase exposes learners to the outdoors to test their strengths, limitations and weaknesses while developing leadership and teamwork skills; The Skills Phase places learners in the classroom with a range of different subjects from Sports Coaching and Woodwork to Hairdressing and Cookery; and lastly The Community Phase is where learners are prepped for the real world outside Chrysalis and equipped with career guidance and life orientation skills.

Since the programme started 13 years ago, approximately 6000 learners have emerged from the Chrysalis empowered to face life’s challenges. This is why the Academy has become one of the most successful youth development organisations in South Africa, with applications from hundreds of thou- sands of learners each year.

Two such learners who have totally transformed their lives are Patrick Stungwa from Mitchells Plain and Zama Thasana from Philippe East. Both aged 26, they are now interns at the Chrysalis Academy and have become ambassadors for change in their respective communities.

Stungwa, who completed the programme in March this year, says Chrysalis has truly changed his outlook on life. “Before I came to Chrysalis I used to just do things without thinking, with my actions often getting me into trouble, but now I take time to process decisions and make the right choices in life.”

With a keen interest in office administration, Stungwa was awarded the Academy’s internship and now works at the admin office on the premises. “Chrysalis has given me the tools to dream and achieve something with my life,” he says.

Bubbly and confident Thasana, who completed the programme last year, says she was a short tempered angry teenager until Chrysalis taught her the art of self-control. “At first I was scared when I started at the Academy. I did not know anyone and I was troubled. Today I have lifelong friends that I met at Chrysalis and I have found purpose in my life. Who knows where I would be without this programme.”

Thusana excelled in fire-fighting and says the skills she learnt helped her save lives in her township. “Living in a township, many people use candles for light and shacks burn down almost every week. What I learnt at Chrysalis saved my life.” She now advocates fire safety and prevention in her community.

Due to the success of the programme, other provincial departments, like Kwa-Zulu-Natal and Gauteng, have approached Chrysalis to train and teach their staff to begin the same programme in their respective provinces.

Eleven youth facilitators have graduated and are now ready to roll out the first programme in KwaZulu-Natal. Gauteng is set to roll out the programme by next year.

For more information on the Chrysalis Academy call: 021 712 1023