It is often in times of adversity that people rise to meet challenges head on, proving their strength and resilience and showing initiative in finding solutions to challenges.

The lockdown, while catastrophic for the economy and livelihoods of so many, prompted communities around the country to rally together in support of their most vulnerable. Prince Albert was no exception, and here it was especially the youth of the town who showed commitment to helping those in need, with around 45 volunteers pitching in in a very hands-on manner to assist PACT with the COVID-19 Feeding Scheme, which has operated since March.

The efforts of this group of dedicated young volunteers prompted PACT to see an opportunity for the creation of a programme where this initiative and can-do attitude could be further cultivated. ‘We saw such potential and willingness to go the extra mile, and felt there was room to nurture these young people in a way that would benefit them well into the future,’ says Ingrid Wolfaardt.

This has now, after some planning and strategizing, culminated in a new internship programme run by PACT and based at the POP Centre. The pilot test-run of the internship will start from July and run until December, with its first six candidates, all of whom volunteered at the feeding scheme.

Word was sent out via social media and into the community and applicants were guided through a process of interviews. Wolfaardt explains some of the qualities that PACT was hoping to find in the candidates: ‘We were looking for an attitude to life more than anything – it was more the approach and energy the applicants brought than their skills that we were interested in. We wanted solution oriented, high-energy individuals with positivity and drive and a teachable attitude, those who would lead from the front,’ she says.

The final six were selected and as part of the process, each individual’s aptitudes and interests were mapped out, so as to identify areas where PACT could support and guide them in this journey. ‘For each intern, we’ve mapped out a developmental path, and then looked at how PACT come alongside them in terms of networking, skills development and training, so we can foster these passions and put them onto a clear path forward, equipped and empowered after the internship,’ explains Wolfaardt.

The concept entails investing in these candidates by way of their personal development and in turn, the understanding is that they invest their own time and enhanced skill back into the community. ‘The thinking behind it is that it instills in the participants the notions of service, leadership, giving back,’ says Wolfaardt.

Some of the programme will encompass specific tasks, such as mandatory reading, the completion of a life skills schedule, mastering programmes like Excel, and even passing a drivers license test by the end of the year, while others will revolve more around communication and conduct – important and nuanced skills that prepare them for the working world, such as email and phone etiquette and conducting yourself on different platforms, or approaching a formal institution. ‘Most importantly, our aim is to increase the youngsters’ sense of confidence and self worth, as well as widen their skillsets,’ she adds.

A typical day would start with a clean up at the POP Centre – instilling a sense of pride in the workplace and respect for the space – followed by time devoted to personal development, then moving on to planning for the aftercare programme before the children arrive from school, and then wrapping up at the end of the day. Every activity is underpinned by the pursuit of excellence in all things, and low tolerance for mediocrity – core beliefs that define PACT’s ethos.

‘In essence, it functions as a bit of a post matric, or finishing school of sorts – a preparation for these young people for further studies or the workplace. We want to have a rolling effect – get each group through the process within the six month period and then welcome the next group, having a constant stream of people moving through the programme and moving on to their chosen paths,’ says Wolfaardt.

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