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Youth get Presidential awards for volunteer work

Written by Nthambeleni Gabara

Youth matters

South Africa recently honoured its youth at the Sefako Makgatho presidential guesthouse for their determination and efforts to improve the lives of the less fortunate.

Deputy Minister in the Presidency responsible for Performance Monitoring and Evaluation Obed Bapela honoured the youth with the President’s Award for Youth Empowerment last month. The awards aim to motivate young people to become involved in a balanced programme of voluntary self-development activities in the transition from adolescence to adulthood.

Congratulating the 60 Gold Award recipients from Gauteng, Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal, Bapela said, “I challenge you to keep living the award in all you do. Continue working with the less privileged in the way you have. Continue to learn new skills and challenge yourselves in various ways as you move into the future. Our country needs young people like you to build our future.”

Bapela added that the awards give young people experience and make them responsible.

“We believe if more people follow their example, we can successfully nurture our youth and invest in their future. We are saying to our young people, don’t just stay at home or on street corners, do something in your com- munities and we will give you recognition.” Gold award recipient, Jonathan Seland, 18, said he learnt many things by helping other people.

“It is very important to help different com- munities, teach people how to read and help those who are injured. Receiving the President’s Award means I have made an effort.” Clare Walker, 17, said, “I enjoyed doing community work, it is so humbling. I want to urge other young people to make a difference by doing the same in their respective communities.”

Emily Mabasa, a disabled learner, received a standing ovation for her touching message on her involvement in the awards.

“I’m not disabled; disabled means you can- not do anything. I can do anything as long as I’m determined. I might be physically challenged, but God gave me a strong mind and as such, I can help others.

“If it were not for this award, I would not have discovered my passion for helping others. The awards made me realise that I have knowledge I can share with others. I always push myself to the very end, it helps me in life not to feel sorry for myself as I only have one life and I will live it just like everyone, I only have one difference from others.”

Bapela announced that the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) is in the process of signing its first service level agreement with the organisers of the President’s Award Programme to increase support for the organisation’s work.

“We hope to create greater access to the Award Programme with this partnership and enable more young people to develop themselves through this exciting international initiative,” he said.

According to Bapela there are many ways to help young people. These include challenging them to think out of the box and exposing them to various experiences and pushing their own boundaries.

Bapela said what young people needed was to believe in and contribute to their communities and society.

“Listening to young people this evening, it was clear that we need to touch more young people in South Africa by the Award Programme to create a future built on a solid foundation.

“It is not easy, but we need to work hard to develop the positive energy of young people in this country and harness it,” Bapela said.

In August 2010, at the start of the United Nations’ International Year of Youth, President Zuma accepted the role of patron-in-chief, from President Nelson Mandela, the founding patron-in-chief of the UN.

Last year, during the presidential budget vote speech in Parliament, President Zuma called upon the private sector to support the valuable work that the award was doing for young people in South Africa.

The award programme was first introduced in the United Kingdom in 1956 as The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award.

Today, the award programme runs in more than 120 countries, with 21 in Africa.

In South Africa, the award programme started as the Gold Shield Award in 1983 and 11 years later, in 1994, it was renamed the President’s Award for Youth Empowerment. The programme has four sections designed to provide a balanced programme of personal development: service, skills, physical recreation and adventurous journey.