visit to the Durban YMCA was on Wednesday afternoon. It was a hot and
humid afternoon, much like most of the days in February in Durban due to
the subtropics. This climate is very similar to the climate of our
friends in Florida.
Joanie: I noticed how many people were around
the building and I found it interesting that they were mostly teenagers
and young adults. The building has 8 floors designated for residence.
As we entered the building we were guided to a rickety old elevator. It
appeared to be a little unsafe so I decided to get in a little extra
exercise and take the stairs to the 8th floor where the Y offices were
When I arrived on the 8th floor I looked out the windows
and the view was of a park and soccer field located next to the Y. Kids
were playing soccer just like they would in the U.S. I noticed the
soccer field was next to the police station and found it a little odd.
It was a reminder of the crime that exists in this country. The police
station is located there due to the drug infested bridge less than a
mile from the field and the Y's property.
Lisa and Joanie: We
were escorted to another room where Mike Cuthburt, National Program
Director, introduced himself and shared a presentation with us
describing the signature programs and the vision for the Greater Durban
YMCA. These signature programs include: Y Zone, Y Arts, Y Justice, Y Fit
and an entrepreneurial program.
When Mike described the Y
Justice program we were all moved by the progress they were making with
the young people who have been involved in drugs, rapes, and life on the
streets. Drug trafficking is prevalent in the Durban community and its
hard to stay away from.
Young people who had no hope are given a
second chance through the caring individuals at the Durban YMCA. The Y
Justice program has 3 elements- First, they go into the prisons and work
with different groups. The first is juveniles 16-21, second is females,
and two different male sections - the less serious offense group and
those who committed the more serious crimes.
They work with the
prisoners to help them change the way they are thinking and work on life
skills. They also have a half-way house where prisoners go after they
are released. Many of these men and women are released and do not have a
place to go. Their aim over an 18 month period is to enable the person
to re-enter society and be a functional member.
The third element
of the Justice program is going into high schools. They are currently
in four high schools where they do life skills training. They link this
because it's part of the prevention program. Some of the teachers are
from the program (ex-prisoners).
The Y Justice program is
wonderful and give the prisoners an opportunity to make a better life
for themselves. It also shows them that someone cares about them. They
are doing great work and changing lives of these young adults which is
what we are all about. It was incredibly inspiring and left us all
wanting to bring this to the states: Youth Justice: 3 elements.
Y Fit, they are building a new center which will help them promote
Healthy Living. They raised over $800,000 rand, which is equivalent to
about $80,000 American dollars. They are trying to get the University
students who live in their residence to get involved in their programs.
entrepreneurial program includes teaching young people life skills
training such as job skills, communication, and phone skills. They
receive a certification at the end of this program and it's must like a
GED in the US.
The Y Zone is an after care program that is run at
8 different sites. The Twin Cities replicated the Y Zone in Minneapolis
and they are running the program now. Some are in schools and they are
focused on Literacy. They also have a skills development program
focusing on computer skills and Zulu. Half of Africa is French and
Africans come into this area and speak French and Swahili so the Y
offers training for the Africans who don't speak English or Zulu.
September they were offered a circuit of equipment. They opened their Y
Fit center on October 1, and started with a low rate to test the
market. This is an area where the US Y can really help them. Their
center is nothing like what we have in the states nor are the staff
trained to offer the types of programs we have. They will need help to
build up their center to be able to provide good sustainable programs
for their community. With obesity rates rising they will need to focus
some of their efforts on education and how to live a healthy lifestyle.
now they have 250 people paying for a membership. With all the funding
sources they will be able to sustain their operations in the future
based on a new membership price of $150 rand per person per month. That
is $400,000 rand/year for 250 members if they did the math right. Their
target market: apartments, seniors, residence, some families. One
interesting fun fact: 100 young people volunteering in their programs.
This was the Greater Durban YMCA! More to come as we move through our journey! Off to Cape Town next!
- Lisa and Joanie