On the weekend of 28 August 2010, I was fortunate to join a group that travelled up to Potchefstroom for the annual Artillery Open Day held at 4 Artillery Regiment (yes, I promise that I’m going to tell you all about that soon, so watch this space!). In addition to members from the Defence Reserves Provincial Office Western Cape (DRPOWC) and a couple of photographers, the group included six learners from two Western Cape schools and two young men from Chrysalis Academy.
This trip gave me some first-hand experience of the impressive leadership qualities taught by Chrysalis Academy. In addition to being very fit physically, these two young men exuded an impressive level of confidence, maturity and calmness beyond their age, that made it quite clear that they would go far, regardless of the careers they would choose to follow. It was such a pleasure to be around them.
Chrysalis Academy, in case you have not heard of them before, is a youth development organisation that is based at the Porter Estate in the beautiful Cape Town suburb of Tokai. Established in 2000, the academy targets so-called ‘youth at risk’ between the ages of 17 and 25 years. By means of a well-structured programme, it empowers them to steer away from the crime, drugs and gangsterism that are so prevalent in the Western Cape. The youngsters are taught how to become socially responsible adults and strong, positive community leaders. Initially, the academy concentrated only on young males, but the most recent intake of April 2010 consisted of 154 young women, 98% of whom completed the demanding programme.
They run a five-year development programme, which covers six comprehensive areas of study, namely: environmental awareness, personal development, social responsibility, career orientation, physical training, and leadership skills.
It starts with a three-month residential component, which consists of four sequential phases.
In the first phase, a daily routine is established, teaching them about discipline, personal hygiene and goal setting. In the second phase, they are taken into the great outdoors, where their personal limits are tested and they learn the importance of teamwork. The third phase exposes them to a wide range of practical courses, such as welding and woodwork, computer skills, business administration, etc., whereas the fourth phase shows them how to take the practical skills and positive personal qualities they have acquired back into their own communities.
As you can see, this is a deeply transformative and very inspirational programme.
One of the accepted responsibilities of DRPOWC is to become involved in youth development, which includes creating awareness among the youth of the military in general and of the Defence Reserves more specifically. The life skills and positive leadership qualities taught by Chrysalis Academy, such as discipline, self-confidence, honour, respect and camaraderie, are in fact very much like the qualities inculcated in the military.
When the academy held their most recent Career Day on 21 June 2010, the recruitment office had a table with a display, explaining and promoting the Military Skills Development System and the Defence Reserves System. The message conveyed was that military service would teach the youngsters additional skills and values that would be invaluable when they returned to their communities and to their places of work after completing their military service.
The DRPOWC was also present at Graduation Day on 10 July 2010, when the April 2010 intake of young women completed their rigorous three-month residential programme. They proudly and confidently performed in front of invited guests and enthusiastic and supportive friends and families, making it clear that they had been profoundly and positively changed by their experiences at the academy.
With such spirited enthusiasm and self-confidence displayed by the graduates of this youth development programmes, there is definitely hope for our country. We so badly need good, morally upright, intelligent and far-sighted leaders, so it is heart-warming to know that these young men and women have the skills and confidence to become the outstanding young leaders of tomorrow.
If you are curious, and would like to know more about Chrysalis Academy, have a read at the article we wrote: Chrysalis Academy PDF
[With grateful thanks to Lt Col Johan Conradie for the photos.]