The second anniversary of the R20-million Volkswagen loveLife Youth Centre in Nelson Mandela Bay’s KwaNobuhle township, coincides with its rapidly expanding footprint into needy areas beyond its 90 000-strong community borders.
Now, two years after the loveLife Centre opened on World Aids Day in 2012, its reach no longer includes just a small portion of KwaNobuhle, but rather the entire township as well as parts of the surrounding areas of Uitenhage and Despatch.
It has also more than doubled its goal of reaching 20,000 youths in the community annually, with an impressive 40,338 youths – sometimes with their parents in tow – flocking through the centre gates since January this year (2014) alone. This figure excludes the many community outreach programmes organised by the centre.
Meanwhile, the popularity of the loveLife “groundBREAKERS” (or “gBs”) programme is seeing students from the community receive sought after scholarships to national tertiary education institutions, while its radio station, Radio L2K, is gaining listeners in the thousands.
Funded by a joint Volkswagen AG and IG Metal donation, the centre has been described as “an invaluable asset to the community” by Volkswagen Group South Africa Managing Director David Powels.
“Seeing the impact that the centre has had on the community over the past two years shows the importance of such initiatives, and VWSA is proud to be a part of this,” said Powels.
The VW loveLife Centre was built to provide the youth of KwaNobuhle and the greater Uitenhage area with a safe haven where they can play sport and interact with their peers and adults. It is also equipped with a youth-friendly clinic offering specialised HIV and Aids advice. Additionally, the centre offers counselling and support services to teenagers and parents on issues such as substance abuse, holistic health checks and reproductive health.
When it opened its doors, the centre aimed to reach over 20,000 youths annually with outreach programmes to 20 schools in the area.
“Through this centre, VWSA has helped many young people. The loveLife Y-Centre has become a symbol of hope to the community of KwaNobuhle,” said Centre Manager Themba Kani-Maseti.
The centre is now staffed with a nurse, social worker, and volunteer counsellor – all of whom were in constant demand. This was in addition to the popular basketball and netball coaching hosted at the centre, as well as the training programmes at the centre’s Cyber Ys computer lab. Other popular programmes include love4Life, Living My Life and debating.
“Our coverage with Radio L2K has grown from a 4km radius to cover 12km,” said Kani-Maseti. “It is a big part of the centre’s reach into the community. Listenership has grown from about 3,500 when we opened, to about 20,000.
“The centre is seeing an average of 270 people daily, which is fantastic. We have just been getting busier and busier. Already this year, 140 youths have been trained in basic computing at Cyber Ys, and we are getting young children coming in for literacy programmes such as Nal’ibali.”
Volunteer counsellor Linda Ntetha, who grew up in KwaNobuhle, said psychological counselling was not offered elsewhere in the community.
“There is a huge need for the services which the centre offers,” she said. “What we are seeing is that parents are also starting to come in, accompanying their children.”
With 10 gBs trained at the centre annually, two of this year’s gBs have been named as recipients of the 2014 Bona Retsang Award and have also received bursaries to study at the Boston City Campus.
Anelisa Matebese, 24, received a R25 000 Boston City Campus bursary after being placed second in the category of Best Community Journalism Report for her article on gender-based violence. Fellow gB Azile Maka, 22, won the Special Award for Community Journalist of the Year, winning a R50 000 Boston bursary.
“Through loveLife and VWSA, I have received valuable training. My time here has been so interesting and fun, and I have been able to make a difference in the community I grew up in and love,” said Matebese.
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