Sozo Youth Café to create opportunities

The Sozo Foundation, a non-profit organisation in Vrygrond, will take part in a project that will create even more opportunities for youngsters from the area when they launch the Youth Café in partnership with the Western Cape government next month.

The Sozo Foundation was founded five years ago by Anton and Elana Cuyler and was running from the Vrygrond library up until last year August when they moved into their new premises down Vrygrond Avenue.

The colourful building is a stark contrast to some of the hardships that are clearly evident in a community known for violence, women and child abuse and is rife with unemployment.

The organisation has many programmes that run from the premises. They provide skills development opportunities where com- munities can learn and improve trades in the hope that it empowers people with the tools to generate an income – thus gradually decreasing the unemployment totals in the community.

They also provide meals, teach the community about hygiene and one of their main aims is the development of the youth in Vrygrond.

Their five core projects are; the educentre, Eden, design, lifeskills and a Youth Café.

The educentre creates a space where youngsters are mentored and tutored, giving them a safe space to do their homework and projects.

The Eden project is a gardening initiative where women are equipp- ed to start their own vegetable garden to provide for their households.

Design helps creative youngsters in graphic design and the life skills project equips people emotionally, spiritually, economically and socially.

The Youth Café will provide a safe and creative space for unemployed youth between the ages of 16 and 25 who will be trained in various skills workshops, mentoring programmes and uplifting activities.

Sozo will also provide internship opportunities at the café, and computers and internet which will give them access to online job profiles and information.

They also partner with businesses and organisations who can offer internships for young adults, which will lead to work experience and full-time jobs.

Sozo resource manager Sophie Olivier said they are excited to start the Youth Café.

“When Sozo started the overwhelming need for the youth in Vrygrond was identified. Education was the first thing that Sozo started with.

“From there we have grown and are doing several projects specifically for the community of Vrygrond,” said Ms Olivier.

“The Youth Café comes together well with the programmes that we are already running at Sozo.

“Pupils get virtual currency which they earn by attending the workshops or skills training and with that they can purchase coffee, snacks and various things we’ll offer. We love the concept because the youngsters earn the currency, exposing them holistically to various programmes,” she said.

Nolis Mhone, 23, who lives opposite the Sozo building, recently started a marketing and public relations internship at Sozo.

“Initially I had no idea that the Sozo foundation had so much to offer. I just saw this pretty building and didn’t think much of it.

“Then I finished my diploma last year and I was accepted at Sozo for an internship,” said Nolis.

“The work Sozo does in the community is great. They’re really helping the community a lot and everyone is very loving so it’s a welcoming environment. I hope they grow from strength to strength and are able to help even more people,” she said.

Akhona Mvolontshi, 19, also from Vrygrond, has been participating in the Sozo educentre project since 2011. Now he is one of the workers helping other youngsters reach their full potential.

“I can’t imagine what my life would have been like if I didn’t get involved with Sozo. They have helped me through so many things that I don’t think I would have coped with on my own.

“They have opened many doors for me and I hope they grow stronger and my hope is that more people from our community get involved with Sozo,” said Akhona.