Youth development is a key area to ensure South Africa’s socio-economic wellbeing; to this end the Fountain of Youth is helping underprivileged youth to prepare themselves to take the reins.
Their motto is “Cultivating seeds of the future – they shall blossom to bear new seeds for the future.”
By designing and implementing projects and programmes that focus on youth skills development, entrepreneurship, career guidance, crime prevention and health awareness Fountain of Youth, or foYU, aims to provide young people with skills necessary to shape their own futures and that of our country.
Matome Mahasha, founder and managing member of the Gauteng-based Fountain of Youth says: “Because I had the experience of using education as the key to my own success, I wanted to share this experience with other less fortunate kids so that they can know that there are Black South Africans who have been able to get ahead in life … because of striving for excellence and disciplining themselves to achieve well academically.”
The organisation is volunteer-driven, recruiting and training people in Galeshewe township near Kimberley in the Northern Cape as wel as Soweto in Gauteng. It reaches out to ex-convicts and unemployed skilled craftsmen and women to participate in their arts and crafts job creation project.
Fountain of Youth also looks to build awareness of issues such as human rights for youths with disabilities, environmental issues, water literacy and Ubuntu, an Nguni concept meaning humanity or kindness to fellow humans. This is a key value the organisation hopes to instil in the young people it mentors.
“Since the establishment of Fountain of Youth, the organisation has put together at least nine main programmes,” says Mahasha. “The first programme was kickstarted in June 2011 during the youth month in Galeshewe.”
Among the programmes is a Reunification of Homeless Children and Youth initiative, which looks at counselling homeless children and their reintegration into society, after-school support and support for affected families.
The Youth Skills Development and Career Preparedness programme features career expos and career guidance activities, and skills development and training workshops to prepare young people for success.
The crime prevention programme works at reducing youth involvement in crime by empowering them to generate their own income.
The programme includes a Youth Against Crime forum, a youth community work initiative, and an ex-offenders’ reintegration programme featuring entrepreneurship training.
Fountain of Youth’s entrepreneurship programme provides small business mentorship. The programme arms ambitious young people with business skills to kick start their own ventures.
The Amandla Awethu young women development and empowerment programme empowers young women to improve their status in society. Initiatives like the Young Mothers Development and Empowerment are aimed at helping young mothers provide for and take proper care of their children and improve their living standards.
The Vulnerable Children, Youth and Family Services project offers household assessments and empowers parents with skills to provide for their families.
Other projects focus on sports, arts, and culture to persuade young people to live longer, healthier lives.
Amandla Awethu Future Leaders & Achiever club was initiated by Fountain of Youth’s Youth Leadership project. It mentors promising youngsters for leadership positions, and to practise successful peer networking.
Through their Local Economic Development Youth Support programme the organisation bridges the gap between employable youth and government departments and companies offering jobs.
“The organisation has aligned a substantial number of its activities and works to those of all spheres of government and is committed to collaborating with civil society organisations from different sectors in order to promote sustainability, lifelong learning and the spirit of the civil society movement,” says Mahasha.
He adds: “Although I have been involved in development work for over 10 years, being part of an organically embryonic organisation such as Fountain of Youth NPO has brought as much fulfilment to my life as all those we encounter.”
“Fountain of Youth NPO presently does not receive any donor funding although numerous solicited proposals were submitted with no immediate success,” says Mahasha.
The organisation urges all donors or philanthropists to sponsor some of the children from Soweto who benefit from the work of the foundation.