I recently spent a few days in George as an observer at a camp that happens once a year at the start of a year-long youth development programme. I came away from the camp bubbling with excitement for the future if we have brilliant programmes like this one for the disadvantaged of our country.
While I was at the camp I had a chat with Jonathan Stanton-Humphreys the CEO and Founder of the Christian NPO called RealStart (enabledyouth.changed nation) that runs the programme. Stanton-Humphreys has been involved in youth ministry for many years. He had found camp based ministry to be very short term, and he was more interested in long term impact and the journey that this involved. He has four major passions that play out in the RealStart programme; these being holistic discipleship, transforming South Africa (as in making a difference), getting the church out of the church (getting people involved in society and not just warming the pews) and reconciliation.
He has seen how the impoverished are often overlooked, even in our post apartheid country. Many are stuck and going nowhere and thatʼs where RealStart comes in to make a difference. They look for those who are not in education, employment or training (NEET) and give them the opportunity of turning their lives around through this year-long programme.
Hand up, not handout
The stats you hear about our matric pass rates are not entirely truthful, as we have about a 64% drop out rate from the time they enter Grade 1. Our pass rates of 30% for some subjects does not help the situation as many go on to university and do not cope and then they drop out at that level and then sit at home. Many of our matrics are unemployable, especially the impoverished. Many do not have the networks that they need, and RealStart provides a tailor made solution for these people who need a hand up and not a handout.
RealStart has been developed from the ground up. They review all aspects once a year in an open and honest manner so that they can improve wherever they need to. They look to learn from any failures. They always look to be holistic in all areas, make sure that career enablement takes place and provide opportunity for community outreach for the learners.
The first six months of the programme focuses on holistic development (spiritual, mental, emotional and physical) along with opportunity for creative expression, community outreach twice a week, team building and fun physical exercises. The last six months of the programme is all about career enablement. The students are challenged on a continual basis to better themselves through delivering speeches often and life challenges that they need to complete and report back on. They also speak about critical engagement which means to think, look and be an active part of life, to problem solve and ask ʻwhat did I learn from that?ʼ At their first speech of the year which took place on the camp, there were many nerves and tears. A statement made by Stanton-Humphreys was “ There is no room for going back, itʼs your turn and you need to speak. You will discover the courage in you when you know thereʼs no way out!”
RealStart started up in 2011 and at this point has a 90% success rate based on the following two deliverables – Have they used the best possible means to impact the lives of the learners ie. have they changed as people and have they provided a well suited next vocational step for them to take. They of course cannot guarantee that the next step will be taken, as this is entirely the choice of the student, but if they have changed as people, the chances of them making good and wholesome choices for their futures are so much greater.
The mission of RealStart is to passionately care about the future of disadvantaged school leavers and use the best possible means to change their lives, set their vocational course and enable them to become positive role-models and change agents within South Africa.
Love God and Love others
RealStart is very satisfied in hearing from past students that their ethos of ʻLove God and Love othersʼ is achieved in the fact that all students will strongly report that their relationship with God grew and developed during the year.
Costs of about R1 800 per student per month are covered by donations and fundraising. The students are being trained at a tertiary education level and many of them also require transport costs to be covered in order to be at the programme every day from Monday to Friday from 8.30 am to 4.30pm. Transport costs can run into a few hundred rand each month per student. The overall cost would be reduced with more branches opening up. There are a total of nine staff on board at the moment. Some are paid a small salary and raise their own additional support and some raise all their support. 74% of money raised goes towards the programme and 24% towards admin costs. They would always welcome new supporters to this very worthy and necessary cause. Finances are handled with the utmost integrity and honesty, with total transparency to the public.
At the moment there are two branches of RealStart – George and Wilderness. Stanton-Humphreys has great hope for the future that there will one day be hundreds of RealStart branches all over the country. The positives of this programme are more than just for the learners; it provides awesome opportunities for those who become involved, namely, the wealthy mixing with the poor, opportunity to support financially to a great venture, reconciliation, mentoring, building into the local church and providing opportunity for the local church to reach out, enabling young impoverished people, opportunity to meet the Lord, creating lives of meaning and success. More information and stories of those who have successfully completed the programme and are now back in education,
employment or training can be count on their website www.realstart.org or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.