NGO bridges gap to find youth employment

Volunteers at Action Volunteers Africa.

Wynberg NGO, Action Volunteers Africa (AVA), offers volunteering programmes for youth to prepare them to find employment.

Marco Charles, AVA progression officer, said the aim of their YearBeyond programme, run in partnership with Western Cape Government and other partners, is to recruit youth volunteers to run afterschool programmes in under-resourced schools, to supportpupilss with their homework and improve their marks.

At the same time the volunteers get the opportunity to develop themselves as young professionals, ready to take the next step into their future.

AVA was set up in 2012 to harness volunteering as a tool for youth development. Volunteering is seen worldwide as a way for young people to get involved in community development, gain work experience and bridge the gap between school or tertiary study and the world of work.

“The importance of volunteering is to gain experience and open doors for job opportunities,” said Mr Charles, adding that “AVA also runs progression sessions assisting the volunteers to find employment once they have been through our programmes.”

He said AVA is currently recruiting volunteers for the 2017 YearBeyond Programme. This is a perfect opportunity for 2016 matriculants and graduates or those just taking a gap year to find something to do.”

Mr Charles said matriculants with good maths and English marks will be eligible to join the YearBeyond Programme and help tutor primary and high school pupils at under-performing schools. The programme kicks off with a five-day orientation camp. The volunteers also receive a volunteer allowance to cover their transport costs. AVA recruits volunteers from various areas.

The YearBeyond programme has four main components: the volunteering in schools; a leadership course from Stellenbosch University; a comprehensive self-development course; and an exciting innovative challenge.

The innovation challenge is presided over by a panel of judges. Volunteers are tasked with coming up with innovative solutions to some of the major issues facing education in South Africa. Exciting prizes are at stake. Last year the prizes included cellphones, tablets and a trip to Johannesburg.

Mr Charles said that AVA empowers the volunteers and enables them to access jobs, apply for bursaries and gain entrance to universities.

“As AVA expands, we have employed many of our previous volunteers as project co-ordinators, site co-ordinators and self-development officers.”

A volunteer from 2015, Nabeela Barnes is now employed by AVA as an administration and events co-ordinator.

“When I say it was challenging for me, I have always doubted myself. No matter what I do, I always question whether I am doing it right. What is that person saying about me? Will I fit into this crowd? Do I need to be another person? Being with AVA and doing their self-development programmes, I am actually learning to accept myself for who I am. It is okay for me to be who I am. They have helped me grow in such an amazing way. Not even thank you is enough,” she said.

AVA founder, Lisa Garson, said: “When I set up this organisation I never dreamt it would grow this quickly. From a staff of one in 2013, AVA now employs 30 people. Youth unemployment is probably South Africa’s biggest challenge, and getting young people to discover that they can be the drivers of their own destiny, that they can take control of their future by volunteering, gives them the skills, confidence and self-esteem to move forward into successful lives. By helping others they help themselves and the schools and organisations where they volunteer. It is a real win-win programme and the most rewarding organisation to be associated with. Young people in South Africa face tough challenges and have hard lives. This makes them strong and resilient, and AVA supports them in harnessing that strength and encourages them to shine.”

Volunteers must be between the ages of 18 and 25. They must have achieved at least 60 percent in English and maths or 55 percent for maths literacy.

For more information call 021 761 3813 or 021 761 1899 or apply via the link http://www.
yearbeyond.org.za/volunteer/applications/apply-now