“I had given up hope a long time ago on finding a job when I received the phone call letting me know about the Life Skills training. I had nothing coming in except the social grant for my 3-year-old son, so I had begun to sell fish in the community just to try to earn something, then a friend told me about this training and I decided to try it out.
YWAM PE missionaries
“After the first day many people dropped out but I decided: let me just stick to this and it will turn into something good. That is when I got hope again,” says Nolovuyo Scout, one of many young South Africans in Port Elizabeth who have found employment through participating in the Life Skills training programme, facilitated by Youth With a Mission Port Elizabeth missionaries and in conjunction with Mr Price, the Smollan group and selected Spar stores.
The life skills training has been running since June 2013 and more than 500 candidates have been trained and many of them are now employed at local department stores such as Spar, Mr Price, Shoprite, Checkers, Pick ‘n Pay and at other companies. The training is given for free, at no benefit to the volunteers facilitating them, and involve three weeks of lectures in preparation for a written test and practical work experience before candidates are passed on to interviews with the department stores. Youth With A Mission PE has been running the training since 2013 and out of the hundreds trained roughly 75% have since found employment.
Nolovuyo is a resident of Soweto, Port Elizabeth and lives with her grandmother, her three year old son, and other extended family members. She lost both parents when she was young but was given much love and guidance by her grandmother. Before entering Life Skills Noloyuyo had been looking for employment unsuccessfully but after completing the training she was hired by Mr Price and has been working in Walmer Park for over a year now. She is thankful to be able to provide for her family.
‘Do not give up’
“My son is the joy of my life,” she says. “His name means ‘He’s Going to Stand’ and I want him to be able to go to a nice school and get a better education than I did.” Because of her work she is able to provide for him and help her aging grandmother as well, providing a good home environment. “When you come to my house you can see that I am working,” she says. “I want to have a nice home for my family with the right kind of stove for them to cook on so everybody can eat together.” Nolovuyo encourages others as well to persevere and not give up. “If I could give advice to myself when I was younger it would be this: never, never give up.”
Life Skills training prepares candidates with practical merchandising skills and tips to help them succeed professionally but also cover topics ranging from Leadership to Relationships and Healing of the Past. The goal is to not merely help people find employment but to transform lives. For Nolovuyo, who lost her cousin and closest friend to stabbing 10 years ago, the teaching on Healing of the Past and the process of forgiveness and reconciliation helped her to have more peace in moving forward. “It helped me a lot. I have another boy cousin now in his twenties who reminds me of the one I lost, and my closeness with him is beginning to fill that space in my heart.” She is proud of the progress she has made in her life and through this healing has the courage to continue working and persevering for a better life for her son. The lessons she learned from Life Skills have brought substantial, transformative change to her life and her family.
Another Life Skills graduate, Thobeka Senti, shares about the importance of vision, one of the first lessons taught to Life Skills candidates. “Before participating in Life Skills I knew that I needed a vision for my life but it wasn’t until Life Skills that I understood how important that was: that it is something you have to live for completely. I realised I had to focus on what matters to me. It opened my mind that I can’t waste time. That is what I would tell my 16 year old self if I could talk to her now: you need to prioritise your time because you won’t get it back. I need to follow my vision and keep a positive mindset.” The candidates are challenged to take ownership to build their futures and pursue their goals through hard work, persistence and hope. Thobeka’s story particularly shows how these values have paid off in her journey forward.
As the oldest in a large family in New Brighton, Thobeka learned early on to be adventurous in trying new things and responsible by taking care of others. “In high school I was very involved: I tried everything including debate, peer education, sports…I did everything even if I wasn’t very good at it. My aunt encouraged me to always keep trying because if the first thing doesn’t work out something else will. So I didn’t have the fear that my vision wouldn’t be fulfilled: I knew that I had to maintain hope and good things would come.” After finishing high school Thobeka began attending courses at business college, pursuing her dream of working in financial accounting. It was during her first year studying that she also attended the Life Skills training.
“After I finished my training because I didn’t pass the test the first time I had to wait almost a year before I found employment. It was frustrating because people at home asked why I bothered doing it and would try to discourage me but I still had hope and finally something did come.” Thobeka was able to retake her test and was then accepted to work at Mr Price, where she is currently employed while at the same time maintaining her studies to become a financial accountant.
As she moves forward her faith gives her persistence and hope. “On some days after the trainings my classmates and I would sit and share Bible verses with each other and teach each other about God. I’ve learned that sometimes God doesn’t allow things to be how we had planned and we need to allow Him to show us how to do things. Then it will be natural for us because we will be doing His will.”
Nolovuyo and Thobeka are just two of many who have found hope and new opportunities after being trained by YWAM PE volunteers in the Life Skills programme. YWAM Port Elizabeth staff continue to provide practical discipleship within local communities, seeking to bring transformation one step at a time. “It makes no sense for someone to wake up in the morning and come and teach us then get nothing in return,” says Shakes, another Life Skills graduate. “When I saw that I decided to take the programme seriously.” The lives that have been changed, the families that have been supported, the young people released, are testimony to the fruit of this vision. It is in these ways that communities are impacted with one life transformed, one mindset impacted, one vision fulfilled at a time. Life Skills candidates are released knowing that growth is possible, hope is essential, and opportunities are on the other side of their faith and persistence. Their futures are opened up for them as they emerge understanding that change is possible, given the opportunity to build their own lives.