Young achievers youth with a vision.
Article Type: Organization overview
Subject: Youth (Societies, clubs, etc.)
Students' societies
Pub Date: 06/01/2008
Publication: Name: Sister Namibia Publisher: Sister Namibia Audience: Academic; General Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Social sciences; Women's issues/gender studies Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2008 Sister Namibia ISSN: 1026-9126
Issue: Date: June, 2008 Source Volume: 20 Source Issue: 2
Product: Product Code: 8681000 Youth Membership Organizatns NAICS Code: 81399 Other Similar Organizations (except Business, Professional, Labor, and Political Organizations) SIC Code: 8641 Civic and social associations
Geographic: Geographic Scope: Namibia Geographic Code: 6NAMI Namibia
Accession Number: 184550006
Full Text: The sense of family and belonging is hard to miss as you watch the participants trickling in, interacting with each other. There is great respect amongst all in attendance regardless of age or gender. The scene is played over every Saturday, between one and four in the afternoon at the Katutura Multipurpose Youth and Resource Centre, where this group of Young Achievers meets.


Providing access to limitless possibilities

Started in September 2004 by Pandu Hailonga and Lejeune Lockett, the Young Achievers will this year be celebrating a vibrant four years in Namibia. It all started when a Grade 10 student asked Pandu for advice on which subjects to pick for Grade 11 and 12, so as to get into the right course in university. Pandu was disturbed by this as she realised the school system was not providing this service to its students.

It made her wonder how many other students were wandering around, limited to their immediate environment while living in a world full of limitless possibilities. Together with her long time friend Lejeune, Pandu decided it was time to give the youth in Katutura the same fighting chance that she was given by other people. And thus, Young Achievers was born.

Growing up in Katutura

Pandu herself grew up in Katutura, completing her high school education at Augustineum before studying Nursing and Health Education. She gained a PhD in Development Studies with a thesis on adolescent sexuality and reproductive behaviour. Having grown up an orphan, she says she will never forget the kindness and assistance from all the people that helped her to where she is today. This gave her the inspiration to start Young Achievers and to donate her house for use as a resource centre with a library, computer room and study area. "I felt that there are no libraries in Katutura: every second house is a shebeen and alcohol is rampant, while there are no extra curricular activities in the township."

Everyone can join

Young Achievers had humble beginnings, starting with a group of five students who found out mostly by word of mouth that there were people who cared deeply for their future and wanted to talk to the youth and share information. It has since grown to some thirty to forty participants per session.

Firm believers of the adage that you are as young as you feel, Young Achievers has no age limit. The programme initially attracted students in Grades 10 to 12 but has since expanded to accommodate younger participants now known as Emerging Young Achievers, the youngest being bubbly five-month-old Theresa! Older participants too are not excluded from participating in Young Achievers. There is really no limit as to who can become a Young Achiever, regardless of age, sex, nationality and socioeconomic background.

Paying back to the community

After seeing their first group of Young Achievers complete high school and get scholarships to further their studies at the University of Namibia and the Polytechnic, Lejeune believed she might have seen the last of them. But this was not to be the case, as they kept on coming back for meetings and created an additional support structure for the programme as well as positive role models that younger participants could relate to and look up to. They initially thought that having such a diverse age group might prove to be a problem, but up to now it has not. The older participants share and interact with as much fervour and enthusiasm as the younger participants do.


The spirit of paying back to their own community is alive and being put into practice. "It is my community. These are my people. Of course I have to come back and build up my home. If I don't do it, then who will?" exclaimed one participant. Such loyalty and devotion to anything is hard to find today, but clearly not impossible. Among their many activities, members come up with annual service projects on diverse community issues. They recognise and reinforce the importance of serving your community as a volunteer in whichever way you can.

The power of a vision

Being around these young people one cannot help but feel inspired to make a change in the community. They all, without exception, exude such confidence and optimism that you cannot help but envision an amazing future for them, and ultimately for Namibia. The number of female participants is almost always at par with the number of male participants which is very encouraging for other young girls to join the Young Achievers. This is a step in the right direction towards promoting gender equality in all spheres of society.

At the beginning of each meeting, everyone is asked to introduce themselves by stating their name, their vision and to say something that they did in the past week that they are proud of. Some participants said that before they attended a Young Achievers meeting, they had no idea that they could have a vision, and even more surprising, that their vision could come true.

"At Young Achievers, you realise your vision and get a sense of direction towards it," explained one participant, and another added "We do what others talk about and that makes all the difference. Talking about leadership is one thing, but practising it is what shapes you into the person you want to become." Positive influence coupled with caring, consistent support makes for a healthy developmental environment, which is exactly what the Young Achievers programme has been doing for the past four years.

Developing skills for tertiary education

The Young Achievers' motto is 'Education, Self-reliance and Development'. Their vision is to see that all youth in Namibia make it to tertiary education. Their strategy involves skills development through guest speakers and facilitators, who every Saturday seek to develop the participants' social and intellectual skills as well as encourage critical thinking. They challenge each other in open dialogue on social, economic and general issues and debate topics that require them to think 'outside the box'.

Pandu hopes that Youth Officers within the Ministry of Youth will take on the methodology and use it when they interact with young people in their respective areas. And many of the participants would like to see Young Achievers grow beyond Namibia and into Africa and the world because they can bear witness to the fact that it works - that it is possible to go into a community and change the outlook of an individual, and therefore change the outlook of the community as a whole.

You can contact Young Achievers at Tel 081 302 8819 or 081 213 1090, or visit the Resource Centre at Erf 7218, Hans Diedrich Genscher Street, Shandumbala, Katutura.
Gale Copyright: Copyright 2008 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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