A new outlook
"I have been working for The Department of Correctional Service in Voorberg, South Africa for the past nine years and have also been an Award coordinator there for the past five years. I have seen the Award have a great influence in the prison system.
"I first heard about the Award programme in 2003; initially it was one of a few other adhoc tasks allocated to me. However, it was only a matter of time before it became the centre of my life, and the one thing that got me out of bed in the morning as the correctional service environment can be very negative at times. Once I had read the manual about the programme I was hooked for life!
"Award participants in our correctional centres get involved in everything from conflict resolution to renovating buildings, and from pottery to volleyball. The programme definitely gives them a new outlook on life, and they do not tend to recommit crimes and return to the correctional system. For the first time in their lives, they are confronted with their true self and they discover who they are. Through the programme, they start dreaming, setting goals and having a vision for their own lives again. Before they are released they know exactly what they want to do, and what they won’t do again.
"All of the young people I work with through the Award are inspiring in one way or another. However, two recent participants, Samuel and Johannes, have affected me particularly.
"Samuel has grown from this very shy and withdrawn individual to an amazing and strong team leader, whom the other participants looked up to with pride. He taught me that as a leader you need to practise what you preach and challenged me to be the best leader I can possibly be. He was released in 2005 and is still going strong.
"Johannes grew up in a community and a household ruled by gangs (his stepfather, brother, uncle and cousin all belonged to one or another gang), but beat the odds and completed his Gold Award in 2006. He is proof that sometimes all a young person needs is one person to believe in them, and to be guided by that person with love in the right direction.
"Being involved in the Award programme has had a huge effect on me too. It motivated me to further my studies and in 2007 I completed a National Diploma in Youth Development. The Award gives me the satisfaction of doing something worthwhile. I believe I’ve found my calling in life."
Sharene, South Africa