The team at Zayrah are united by a common goal – to lead young South Africans out of poverty.
• Amu Mayimele
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Youth-led development agency Zayrah has taken the initiative in transforming young disadvantaged South Africans into educated, active citizens.
The team at Zayrah, all united by their passion for post-conflict and young leadership development, have adopted a holistic approach to poverty problem solving. The five goals around which their projects revolve are human security, education, social cohesion, entrepreneurship and leadership.
Zayrah, which derives from the Hebrew word ‘zera’, meaning ‘seed’, uses its advocacy for these goals to empower young people and alleviate poverty through y the projects.
The organisation will participate in Rotary International Health Day in May 2013, where it will focus on the youth perspective of Health Day, as well as information, awareness, and a youth dialogue on health education.
Zayrah is currently organising the African Youth Charter Summit, taking place in Tanzania’s Dar es Salaam from 3 to 7 July 2013. Young leaders from around Africa will discuss ways to take the continent to the next level and identify Africa’s future needs.
Helping the community with health care
Zayrah was launched in March 2012 and since then, has gone on to running a healthcare support program that works with a home-based care centre called the Phadima Gape Community Organisation in Soshanguve, Pretoria.
At the centre, there are a team of devoted women aged between 20 and 50 who are committed to caring for the elderly and ailing in their communities. These women pride themselves on service above self, providing care to patients undergoing treatment for HIV/Aids, TB, diabetes, high blood pressure and those who have suffered strokes or require wound care.
These women of Phadima Gape assist the people under their care with taking their medication and accompanying them to the clinics to receive treatment. They cook for, do laundry for and clean the homes of patients who are unable to care for themselves, and they help the children of their patients with their homework and keep a watchful eye over the little ones.
Phadima Gape also provides these communities with counselling and education on health issues. Zayrah seeks to facilitate relationships between businesses or other organisations and Phadima Gape, so that they may receive the necessary long-term funding to continue their work in the future.
“We believe in people who are healthy, living in safe conditions, who are educated to make better decisions and inspired to be active citizens in society,” says Amu Mayimele, social entrepreneur and founder of Zayrah. “We moreover believe in a new generation of leaders who will lead development and are exemplary custodians of good governance.”
The power of the youth
Mayimele, 27, graduated from Limpopo University with an accounting degree, but after a couple of years working for a corporate accountancy firm she realised that “there has to be more to life than just a career”.
She had already been involved in various youth leadership projects and initiatives for more than a decade, including a stint as financial officer of the International Youth Council, a UN program that seeks to get young people involved in running programs in line with UN goals, and so it was decided that she would set out on her own development project, Zayrah.
Soon afterwards, Mayimele was invited to be part of the Power of Youth summit that took place in June 2012 in Cape Town. This is an annual international event that brings together the top young social entrepreneurs from all over the world.
“Most people think I am crazy and it can be a lonely journey at times,” she says, but insists that anybody who might doubt her vision for a different Africa only serves as her greatest motivation to make it all happen.
Today Mayimele is a well-known and influential youth leader who has facilitated a few programmes including a dialogue on democracy for youth participation in the Fiji Islands.
‘Help should come from within ‘
“Every day we see people struggling to keep going. Families experience difficulties to put three meals on the table while others have no access to clean drinking water or hygienic toilet facilities,” says Nirvana Naidoo, one of the youth leaders of Zayrah.
“They live in deteriorating housing conditions. These people fight against sickness and poverty to survive. They always live in the hope that one day they will get some help from the government – but Zayrah is here to say that help should start from within,” she says.
This is why Mayimele and her team of young South Africans at Zayrah believe that overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity, but that the right to dignity and a decent life is a fundamental human right.
In its efforts to transform society, Zayrah provides people in townships with counselling and courses on dignity, so that they may live a life better than their circumstances. It also provides books for school libraries and empowers children with dignity courses in schools in South Africa.
“Zayrah exists to transform society and to restore dignity,” Mayimele adds.
The organisation is a great advocate of young people’s initiatives and constantly seeks to enhance and promote developmental solutions from the youth perspective through workshops and training, inspiring change and restoring dignity.
Education for everyone
Zayrah has recently taken its efforts abroad – in South Sudan the organisation is working with the International Youth Council of South Sudan to help establish a learning centre in that country, to bring down illiteracy levels and enable access to education for all.
The project’s concept is to bring libraries, computers and internet services closer to the communities living in Magwi County. Its main aim is to provide access to learning materials and internet services to every person – children and adults, disabled students, teachers, university students and scholars, officials, community based organisations, migrants and returnees, internally displaced persons, the disabled and orphaned war children.