Before I became a Placemaker, I was rugtingloos (directionless). Just going where everyone else was going, going in any direction. I was smoking, taking drugs, involved in gangs. At that time I wasn’t interested in doing anything. Then I found VPUU and I decided to change myself. During my time as a Placemaker, I developed a passion and a love for working in the development space. And also to influence other young men without direction – Granthan Dombas, former VPUU Placemaker, 2016
The VPUU Placemaker Programme seeks to promote youth as positive role models in their communities by offering possibilities for young people to upskill themselves socially and professionally; encouraging positive behaviour; and healthy living. After graduating from Chrysalis Academy, Placemakers work with VPUU for 12 months, predominantly in the fields of Early Childhood Development (ECD) and Youth Afterschool Activities. The Placemaker motto is: We create vibrant and safe spaces for youth to be free and strong.
We have interviewed Placemakers who have taken this motto beyond their time at VPUU, out into their lives and communities and jobs. This is a celebration of the strong and inspiring youth who have been part of our programme, and who continue to spread the VPUU vision. On of these people is Granthan Dombas, who was a Placemaker in Paarl East SNA in 2016.
Before I joined the Placmakers and Chrysalis, I was just around. I was doing nothing, Searching for a job here and there. I was fine with that, doing nothing. There was no father figure around and I wasn’t inspired to do anything but walk around, skarrel and hang out at corners. We would go and hustle, and then back to hanging at our corner. Just doing it because we are doing it.
It was quite difficult because I was at college before, I was doing civil engineering, but I dropped out. Then I went back and did a plumbing course which I did finish. And I got an internship at a plumbing company. And then I couldn’t find work. In January 2016, I stopped smoking. It was just my own thing, I decided I was done with it. I began seeking for jobs, I was at the Thusong and the Cape Access E-Learning Centre, and then I discovered VPUU.
It was when I was hanging around at the Thusong. I came here asking because I was enthusiastic. I asked lots of questions and wanted to know more about what VPUU did. After a while, they saw I was persistent and keen, and they snapped me up. They sent me to Chrysalis, and then I became a Placemaker. As a Placemaker I always wanted to do more, was always asking what more can we do? Can’t we do this, can’t we do that? I thought, let me approach them, I knew I’d be constantly involved with what I love, which is youth development.
One thing I won’t forget was…the staff as a whole who were always so caring, interested in us and checking up all the time. The staff were always asking: How are things going? What are you up to? What do you need help with? How can we assist? That was really powerful. It was very encouraging and something good, you see. Because you, the person doing development, are also developing. You are helping and teaching others, but you’re learning at the same time. You’re also learning.
I gained confidence and experience by being a Placemaker, which gave me a good boost for what I want to do now. I got exposure in my community and other communities, to speak and do what I love doing. There were also many communication skills to learn, especially for speaking in front of and interacting with lots of people at once, conducting myself in a positive manner. Working with many personalities and people at the same time is a very difficult thing to do.
When I was at VPUU as a Placemaker, I helped to recruit some of the other Placemakers. We visited the Chrysalis Academy at that time. I knew for a long time I’d like to work there. I approached the Training Operational Manager there, found out about the requirements, and he was really open. Sibo (the Placemaker Facilitator) helped me write a CV to be a Junior Instructor in Training. But then I was approached by the Training Coordiator to be a Sports Coach without even applying.
So now I am a Sports Coach at Chrysalis Academy. It’s the third 3-month session I am doing, so I have been there for nine months. It’s not the first thing I wanted to do, but it’s in the field I want to be in – youth development. I told them, let me see how it will be. It’s at the Youth Development Academy. I’m not really a sports coach kind of person, but I love sport. I also make sure to involve counselling and motivational speaking with my teams, so i get to do what I love. Have also got chance to do other short courses and gain experience. The experience makes me more confident about development. I have alos had the opportunity to do many workshop and training in gender reconciliation, outdoor pursuits and leadership. So overall it’s been an amazing growth opportunity.
My dream is to have my own NGO in my community. I even told my mother, it will specifically be for young men. It is my belief that each and every young man in my community wants to have a family one day. I want to help young men to learn and develop the right principals and values, ways of doing things, to be responsible young men one day. These values might filter to his future wife and children. Which would lead to a happy and healthy family, which in turn would lead to a happy and healthy community.
This is something that came to me by my time in VPUU. I saw what was happening here, what outcome and vision the organisation was trying to reach. My love for development all started here, and was only bolstered by my time at Chrysalis and as a Placemaker.
First thing I will tell them is: don’t always wait. Try by all means to at all times to do something constructive. Don’t just wait for instructions. And always come with something. Come with a problem, but also with a solution.
To VPUU I would say that they should keep doing what they’re doing, to the best of their ability. Because if such things can happen to me, it could happen to many other laitjies out there. It could create something enormous.
And always be yourself. Don’t try imitate others, be yourself, do your thing. And very important have fun and enjoy yourself!