South Africa: Youth in Distress Equipped With Job Skills

Ally Seerang used to steal anything made of metal and sell his loot to feed his drug addiction. Today, Seerang is using the same metal to support his family after taking part in an artisan training programme.

Seerang, a 29-year-old from Tsakane in Ekurhuleni, is one of the learners at Xilembeni Project Centre of Excellence undergoing artisanal training.

The Xilembeni Project Centre of Excellence, which was officially opened this week by the Gauteng MEC for Social Development, Thuliswa Nkabinde-Khawe, creates economic opportunities for the youth and equips youth recovering from substance abuse with skills to survive beyond their treatment programme.

The non-profit organisation (NPO) was established in 2012 to offer support and skills training for the youth. To date, the centre has worked in partnership with the Department of Social Development to provide skills development training and post-recovery substance abuse services (aftercare) to more than 1 000 youths.

Speaking at the official opening of the centre, Seerang said he was thankful for the Department of Social Development for their help in overcoming drug addiction.

"It has been a very tough journey for us, from being at Witpoort Treatment Centre to being part of the Xilembeni Project. Being here, we had to gather our skills so that we can be well-off and help our families to survive. As we continue acquiring these skills, we hope we can be a great asset in our communities," said Seerang.

Another beneficiary from Ivory Park, Nthabiseng Makola, expressed her gratitude to the department for allowing her and other students an opportunity to be trained as artisans.

The 27-year-old from a family of five admitted that being part of the programme was not an easy journey, but it has helped change her attitude towards life for the better.

Through the skills she acquired at the centre, she has managed to revamp her parents' house.

"When I see a brick, I see millions, and when I see a wheelbarrow, I see a Range Rover. My plan is to work very hard so that I get everything that I have wished for.

"I'm not going to disappoint my parents, Xilembeni Project and the Gauteng Department of Social Development. We work hard as a team here, and we love each other," said an optimistic Makola.

The opening of Xilembeni Project Centre of Excellence follows a commitment by Nkabinde-Khawe during her maiden budget vote speech in July that the department will launch three centres of excellence in Ekurhuleni, Sedibeng, and Johannesburg for young people and equip recovering substance abuse service users with skills to survive beyond their treatment.

"A total of 1 866 967 beneficiaries will be reached through substance abuse prevention, treatment and rehabilitation programmes," Nkabinde-Khawe said at the time.

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