Our group of 18 young women volunteers from South Africa and Canada will be arriving on the Sunshine Coast for a three-month cultural exchange this fall. Currently, we're busy volunteering in our South African host community of Khayelitsha, a township near Cape Town. We are one of three Youth Leaders in Action (YLA) exchange teams in South Africa working together with local youth to raise awareness on community health issues. This YLA project is an initiative of Canada World Youth in partnership with a long-standing organization in South Africa, the Volunteer Centre.
Our journey as a women's volunteer team started four weeks ago. Thus far the journey has been both challenging and fulfilling.
The first campaign we helped organize in Khayelitsha dealt with domestic violence. On the day of the event we had a guest speaker answering the community's questions on local issues and services for victims of domestic violence. A dance group provided entertainment for the kids and a local theatre group educated the crowd through drama.
The next issue we tackled as an exchange team was substance abuse. Doing research on the problem in South Africa proved shocking. We found that as a country South Africa has one of the ten highest rates of narcotic and alcohol abuse in the world. Fifteen hundred metric tons of dagga (marijuana) is used annually. Even more shocking was that most drug rehabilitation centres have a success rate of less than three per cent.
To do our bit for the community, the three exchange teams joined together to organize another community awareness event on July 30, this time in the Cape Town suburb of Athlone. The theme for the day was "Breaking the chains of substance abuse."
Once again the support of the community was appreciated as a recovering substance abuser graced us with his inspiring story. This goes to show that there is a way out of a life of substance abuse. The change starts with us. We have to be pro-active and enthusiastic about what we do.
South Africa is a beautiful country, with beautiful people. It is sad to see how the youth of the country become dependent on substances. As a South African youth myself, I feel it is my responsibility to try to bring about change any way possible. Let's make a difference and start changing the world one city at a time.
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