Pesach teaches us the importance of being our own advocates

By Mensch Thought-leader of the month Amanda Blankfield-Koseff

Pesach is around the corner, highlighting the need for more growth and innovation in our lives. The holiday tells how our ancestors escaped from Egypt; how they had to leave their ‘comfort zone’ and bravely move from what they knew… towards something unknown.

We are seeing this happening with the refugees in Ukraine, having to suddenly and so sadly leave their homes and their life, and with very few possessions, move to an unknown future. It takes hope and faith to survive.

With our predecessors, it took thinking differently and finding new ways to solve problems that helped them on their journey, such as not being able to wait for their bread to rise, but trusting that if they did their part, G-d would help them — and he did, by sending Manna. The saying ‘G-d helps those who help themselves’ has a particular resonance over this Pesach — as we try to rebuild, after what Covid-19
took from us in the past two years, while remaining positive and maintaining a growth mind set.

As the Founder and CEO of Empowervate, I am passionate about empowering and motivating our young leaders to become values-led active citizens. To be brave and innovative on their journey of life. To move out their comfort zone to be proactive and to recognise the walk that they need to make. And so, over the past 13 years The EmpowervateY-CAP programme has been running in hundreds of public schools in collaboration with the Department of Basic Education and DSV SA.

The programme empowers learners to work in groups to create innovative solutions that address complex issues affecting them. Topics including Gender-Based Violence, Covid-19, xenophobia, food insecurity, unemployment, lack of libraries and more. We have seen the most amazing projects brought to life, that solve social, environmental, educational, and economic problems. Across the country from the rural village to the urban private school — over 40 451 participants have been impacted so far.

In these last two years, the students (and teachers) showed tremendous grit in the positive way they embraced the new online Youth Citizens Action Programme (Y-CAP), managing to create impactful projects despite all the Covid-19 and personal lockdown challenges. This is where the leadership shone through — the youth trying to help themselves out of challenging situations. We felt proud to coach them in this journey.

Through the Y-CAP learning methodology, and by using the toolkit and actioning the steps, the learners are developing their sense of values. Through action, they are learning project management, communication, research, analysis, conflict management, team management, organisational skills, presentation skills and reflection. The practical nature of the project, and the fun element of the competition format translates into an immersive experience where learning is retained — and by making positive change, the learners also improve in confidence and self-esteem.

It is always such a joy to see what issues they tackle, and how they go about it. The successful submissions we have seen over the years include projects on decreasing gangsterism and bullying; saving water in the Western Cape during the drought; decreasing late-coming and absenteeism at schools; lessening faction fighting in rural Eastern Cape; providing extra lessons to learners in Gauteng; creating libraries, playgrounds, science labs, sports programmes; and standing up against rape.

Across the various provinces
There was a project aimed at erecting a fence around a graveyard next to a school in Northern Cape where social ills were occurring. In Mpumalanga the learners took on solving the problem of road safety on a main road. In the North West, creating a reading culture was important; and in the Free State, donating sanitary pads and bins to their school and surrounding schools was a priority. In KZN we learned about reducing, reusing, and recycling.

This Pesach, we ask you more than ever to recognise the amazing potential of our youth, the very people who are stepping in and up
to the challenges they face, and leading us into a country of positive people power.

Amanda Blankfield-Koseff is a valued member of Jewish Social Justice NGO, Mensch, and a 2021 Graduate of the Mensch Leadership Programme, LIFT. For more on how to get involved, or just have a conversation, visit www.empowervate.org / @Empowervate on Facebook/Instagram/YouTube

Mensch www.mensch.org.za, contact: gina@mensch.org.za

Published in the PDF edition of the Pesach/April 2022 issue – Click here to get it.

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