Fulfilling, challenging, creative collaborations, servitude, humbling, insightful, unconditional love, generous, friendship, help … these words were shared by young South African Vincentians to describe their experience of being a young Vincentian in the service to the poor of South Africa.
In a country with one of the highest inequality rates between the rich and the poor and a high unemployment rate, particularly in its youth population, the young South African Vincentian is frequently challenged to deal with different forms of poverty – from material and social to spiritual poverty. They are called upon to collaborate in order to creatively address these challenges with the aim of overcoming them in a manner that is sustainable, engaging, fun and fulfilling.
Acts of service nurture the youth in alleviating poverty. They run soup kitchens for the homeless, work with high school students to facilitate their community service programmes or donate schoolbooks. They also partner with skills-based organisations to run technical skills programmes to enable youth to upskill, become employable and help themselves and their families in true Vincentian fashion. This provides not just a hand-out but a hand-up. These programs include the running of youth leadership retreats, school shoe donation drives, car wash fundraisers, soccer leagues or fun days. No act is too small or insignificant for the youth server.
More recently, the South African National Council approved the commencement of a National Youth Council (NYC). This is the first of its nature since the formation of the first South African conference in 1856. This NYC is made up of all the regional youth coordinators in the country. They provide an active ear and a voice for the needs of the youth of South Africa. The aim of the NYC is to allow the youth to partake in the core works of the Society in the fight against poverty alleviation through friendship.
Quite often one is humbled at the enormity of tasks entrusted upon us to serve and to lead by example. Being a young Vincentian in South Africa is a call to promote the active membership and participation of the youth in the works of the society and by extension their communities. It is a call to change the perception of the works that we do and to find cause for hope in the example of the founding members. Ultimately, they want to find Jesus in the service of the needy.
Boipelo Mathodlana is National Youth Coordinator, South Africa.