Partner Q & A: South Africa – Siphelele Chirwa of Educo Africa
Describe your work in your own words.
My work is about taking youth from disadvantage communities in South Africa into wilderness to go find healing , hope and most of all to go back Home.
How do you define rites of passage or talk about it in relationship to your work?
I think for us in South Africa and Africa as a whole the Rights of Passage plays a part In our traditional and our past. as an African child I was taught about the four shield of human nature in an African way. My grandfather in his story telling moments taught me about ceremonies that was practiced in his time. When I started working at Educo Africa and I knew that part of the work is taking youth into the mountains, I knew that part of the stories my grandfather used to tell me could be leaved in the help of the mountains.
What brought you to this work?
When I was in my late teens I lost my mother. She became ill in front of me. So with that came lot of life questions, feeling and most of grieving took the best me. I needed to became head of my family as I was the eldest child and take care of my 3 siblings. With that came fear. So I got introduced to Educo Africa on a youth at Risk programme. this programme involved going out into the mountains. The guides took as through similar teachings that my grandfather used to tell me. This included time in solitude on my own in the wilderness. After a while of not crying or showing emotions, I found myself crying and a huge sense of relieve. The mountains that we are doing the process just went through a big fire , after a long night of crying, laughter, reflection. I woke up to really look at nature differently. I started looking at each plant and I was amazed by the new shoot of green and beautiful in the middle of a fire ridden field. That symbolized hope in my life and after fire nature finds way to heal. Nature has to go through fire to restart and go on.
Are there specific mentors, teachers, or lineages it has grown out of?
Judy Bakker Coleridge Daniels Lorindra, Kent Peace. This is just naming a few. My biggest teacher would be the young people that I take into the mountains.
What have been your greatest lessons and in turn joys in getting to where you are?
The joy has been seeing youth stand in their truth and achieving who they are who they are meant to be.
Are there any tools or resources that have been especially useful to you?
The four shield of human nature and the cycle of courage.
What are some of the biggest challenges and advantages to working in South Africa?
The biggest challenge has to be around funding for the programmes. in the last few years we have not been receiving funding from the international funding. We mostly relay on government and local donations to be able to run this process.
How do the local and global points of view interact in your work/experience?
I think the local view is that the Right of Passage work that we do is need work globally and international. Most of facilitators are train by the school of lost boarders. This really highlights the universal humanity need for this work.
What is your hope or vision for the work/field as a whole, what do you see that we need as a community?
My vision is to see most youth at risk go through the process, we need more training as we are growing as an organization and we have new guides coming that also need the international aspect of the work.
What interests you about being part of the Youth Passageways community-network?
The community makes me feel like am not alone as guide. We are a community and we hold each other as that a community.