SWAZILAND: Youth from Amsterdam visit youth at Manzini Youth Care Center for a peer exchange to discuss strategies for living independently
(MissionNewswire) A group of five youth from Amsterdam, the Netherlands and six volunteers recently visited the Salesian-run Manzini Youth Care in Swaziland. During the visit, youth took part in workshops, sharing their experiences with their peers in Swaziland. The theme of the peer exchange was “Self-dependence” and was jointly organized by Don Bosco SAMEN, the Dutch Salesian voluntary service, and Manzini Youth Care Center.
The five youth visiting from Amsterdam were once living on the streets and/or receiving residential care. Manzini Youth Care Center provides services to marginalized youth, including free primary school for children who have dropped out of school due to poverty, two vocational training centers for older youth, residential care for former street children and a drop-in school for street children when they first come in off the streets. Manzini Youth Care Center also serves the communities surrounding the city of Manzini to help residents improve their living standards, sanitation and food security.
Youth who are about to turn 18 and need to leave Manzini Youth Care and youth who have already left took part in the workshops. Residential care in the Netherlands is quite well-organized and intense for minors. Once they turn 18, youth leave the care system and need to take care of themselves. The level of support decreases. This gives youth a sense of freedom, but it is also a giant leap in responsibility.
For many youth, this step is too big, and after some years, they end up having financial debts and other problems. In Manzini, youth experience similar difficulties. Leaving Manzini Youth Care Center is a big step and it is a challenge for the organization to provide transitional care. During the workshops, the youth discussed their ideas about self-dependence. They explored what it means, how they could build an independent life, how to better take care of themselves, and what help they need and want from others.
While youth in the Netherlands and in Swaziland have very difference experiences, they also share commonalities with what it means to gain independence and live as adults in society. They were able to share their experiences and learn from each other. The workshops served a broader purpose beyond peer exchange. The recommendations youth made will be turned into an information poster that will be shared with other similar care organizations to help other youth transition to their new lives.
The visit also included informal dinners and sports events where youth were able to relax and enjoy time with their peers, better getting to know each other. During these times, youth also shared more personal stories about their lives and discovered even more similarities in their backgrounds. One young man from Swaziland shared his experience of drug addiction and attending rehab. He has now been clean without drugs for more than a year and a half. His story inspired one of the youth from Amsterdam who is also going through some struggles resisting drugs and addiction.
“Transitioning from residential care into adulthood is a challenge for many youth,” says Father Mark Hyde, director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “It is important for youth to be able to connect with their peers for support, learn from one another, and also identify ways in which they still need assistance and how to access that. This visit showed youth that their experiences are fairly similar to youth around the globe, and they are not alone in trying to achieve an independent life.”