Two years ago, Berenice Adams, 16, was almost paralysed by a stray bullet in a gang-related shooting between rival gangs in Parkwood.
The bullet is still lodged in her back – two centimetres away from her spine – because removing it might cause more damage.
Berenice was one of four children who were shot and injured in the incident which took place at a park in Viljoen Walk in Parkwood on Friday August 1, 2014.
Asking the youngster about some of the challenges faced by the youth of 2016, she lists drugs, teenage pregnancy and gangsterism.
“Most of the challenges faced by youth in this day and age are caused by peer pressure and the circumstances that we find ourselves in. The youth of today get so caught up in the wrong things and it starts out small with a cigarette for example,” she said.
“Then it escalates to dagga, and other drugs, then it is easier to fall into the trap of gangstersim,” said the teen.
Drawing comparisons with the youth of 1976, Berenice said youngsters of 2016 have to do what the youth of Soweto did back then.
“Today we don’t have apartheid any more but youngsters are still caught up in a system where they think they are meant to fail. The youth of 1976 stood up for what they believed in and made their mark by protesting against a system that was against them. We as the youth of 2016 need to follow their example and be more like them so we can rise above our circumstances,” she said.
“We need to believe in ourselves more and believe that there is a better future for us,” she said.
Chad Crowley, 20, a Parkwood youth leader and founder of NPO the Dream Team Youth Group, said youngsters in Cape Flats communities often face the same issues.
“Many youths from Parkwood face many social ills. Youngsters have been neglected by their parents and live with their grandparents and this causes much resentment and confusion,” he said.
This fuels the social issues because youngsters go out there and search for answers and in search for something that will fill the void left by their parents or their circumstances. Many times they gravitate to negative things like gangsterism and drugs,” he said.
“This is just one of the reasons there are so many social issues in our communities.”
He hopes to give youth at risk a platform to learn and be motivated through various programmes his NPO offers.
“Youths of 2016 need to be taught the history of why we celebrate Youth Day and hopefully through learning the history they will strive to achieve more,” he said.
“If I were to draw comparisons, the youth of 1976 were very active and took part in the anti-apartheid structures and they knew the importance of education while the youth of today don’t really value or respect it,” he ended.
Brittany Cupido, 16, agreed: “The youth of 40 years ago fought for what they believed in and fought against the Bantu education system. Today we as youth need to stand together to fight gangsterism, against drugs and the other social issues,” she said.