“We are poor, but not hopeless”: Youth mobilisation in Orange Farm, Johannesburg

Collaboration Saving Scheme (on behalf of FEDUP)

One of the landmark projects of the collaboration youth saving scheme is the street naming project in Orange Farm, Johannesburg. We have taken upon ourselves to name streets in our community. The naming of streets project is a response to the difficult of navigating the settlement. This project is important to us and the community as it give police, emergency services and the general public a way of locating and referencing properties. This project is a product of our youth mobilisation in Orange Farm, in which we have decided as young people to come together to address common challenges.

Most of us have been living in Orange farm for a very long time but still even today our streets are nameless. It is worse when it comes to letters and parcels sent to our people because most of the mail gets lost.  In a place like Orange farm it is very much possible for two sections to have the same number..… since our townships is constantly growing, street naming is crucial to bring order. People have died while waiting for emergency service provider e.g. like fire service and police emergency teams because they couldn’t identify location to render quicker response.

We can’t always wait for government to think for us in terms of what will be good for us.The street naming project is the best innovation that can be even adopted elsewhere. The collaboration youth saving scheme has engaged with the City of Johannesburg municipality, where we have suggested that this initiative be supported in the municipality. The youth also went on an exchange in Nairobi to share experience and learn from a youth in Nairobi. This youth is doing a numbering of structures project.

Youth members of Collaboration saving scheme identifying and naming streets in Orange Farm.

Collaboration saving scheme

Members of collaboration saving scheme draw their inspiration from Thusanang Saving Scheme, a federation (Fedup) group of mamas in Orange Farm. It is through this group that we have learned about savings, the culture of federating and other Fedup rituals such as data collection, partnerships, and projects. Some of us, at some point we even participated in the Thusanang saving scheme as a result we have first hand experience from the mamas

Collaboration Saving Scheme brings different young people who had travel different directions but faced similar challenges. Some us had spent time seeking for employment with no luck due to limited work experience. Some us had tried going to further our studies but because of our financial status we struggled to access our dreams. As a result, we decided to come together and start our own saving scheme separately from the mamas because we face particular problems that are particular to us as young peopl. 

Our youth group consists of savers and young entrepreneurs ages 16-35. We are very experimental and we are always prepared to push boundaries, but we rely on the guidance of our mamas due to the experience that they have. One of the strongest examples in how we approach savings is introducing different kind of music and dancing in the federation. We are actively involved in small projects and businesses ranging from furniture making to music production. In addition to saving, we eagerly engage the community’s youth through drama, dancing, and sports like soccer. 

Collaboration Saving scheme engaging in different activities.

What we want to achieve

One of the thing we strive to achieve is to alleviate poverty and we believe that this can be done through education. We know that this is an ambitious goal but it is something that we strive towards achieving. For example, we have life skills programme that we have recently started, called “learn4life”. In this programme we encourage young people from Orange Farm to meet on a weekly basis to share knowledge and opportunities. This space is important in the development of our community because the type of knowledge that we get to share is necessary in day-to-day life situations ranging from health, business or environmental topics to social skills and personal development. The learn4life programme also offers curricular activities like acting, drama, choir and dancing.

Fedup has unleashed our hidden talents, it has created space for us to test our potential. Our community is struggling, and many young people are involve in substance and drugs abuse, violence and teenage pregnancy like many other townships in South Africa. Lack of education is another factor, some kids drop out of school. They do not see any value in education because with education you can only see the fruits of your success in the long term. Another contributing factor is lack of leisure activities as a result many young people a lot of free time on their hands which contributes to them engaging in criminal or violent activities. We are trying to change how young people think. We want to shift the thinking that define young people as only leaders of tomorrow – into a thinking that young people can be leaders today and can make change now.

Pipeline projects

As a saving scheme we have agreed to mobilise young people in all informal settlement around Gauteng. We have also decided to engage on projects such as internet café, day care centre, street naming, catering (small l& big events). One of the initiative in this regard include spending Mandela Day doing community work at Little Angels Day Care Center. The youth group immediately thought of Little Angels because it is one of the biggest day cares in Orange Farm and has been running for 11 years. We played with and cooked for the kids so that the teachers could take a break. 

Collaboration saving scheme members visit to Little Angels Day Care Center.

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