By Sian Cohen and Jess Levy
Grahamstown was the training ground for budding young activists during the Winter Vac. The 2007 Global PACT program ran for three weeks and saw a mix of forty-six students from Rhodes, the rest of Africa and the USA taking part.
Global PACT (GPACT) is the Global Partnership for Activism and Cross-cultural Training. Rhodes University is the South African partner of GPACT, offering students training workshops in creating community engagement projects.
Trainees attended lectures given by local NGOs. Bryony Green, the South African coordinator said “Global PACT stresses the fact that the community must drive all stages of the development process and that it is not the role of NGOs to ‘fix’ the community but to help it empower itself.” The trainees identified problems in the Grahamstown community, and came up with solutions in groups.
These solutions came in the form of various projects, some theoretical others practical. 20-20 is one of the projects, and is aimed at educating teenagers about drug abuse. Jonathan Simpson, an Honours Rhodes Student, described 20-20 as “giving kids education on how to make informed decisions.”
The Isipho project works with the non-discriminatory power of art to “empower the kids, and give them a sense of ownership” says group member Anthony Wainaina. The art created by children from the Eluxolweni shelter will be sold at local and American businesses. All funds raised will be given to the shelter.
Shane Lloyd, an American group member, attributes the “success of Isipho to research within the community and our passion for our project. Through the project I learned that young people can make significant changes in their community.”
Madison MacLean, an American participant, said the program was “easily the most rewarding experience of my life. In three short weeks we managed to accomplish so much … from conjuring up the project idea to securing partnerships throughout Grahamstown with businesses that are willing to support us.”
Green said “The most rewarding experience has been witnessing the personal growth of the Rhodes students that take part, and the realisation that we can all have a terrific impact on the communities that surround us.”
Participant and Rhodes student Mark Horfman said “It was absolutely worthwhile. I learnt stuff about Grahamstown that I never even knew. It really opened my eyes.”
To be involved in the project next year visit www.globalpact.org. Programs run in a variety of countries including Croatia, Thailand, America and Brazil. According to Green “It really gives you a sense of responsibility for the world around you, and that is a life-changing realization.”