The Western Cape Department of Social Development is extremely active in various programmes to change the lives of the disadvantaged youth of the province to help keep them out of gangs and/or prison and to turn them into contributing members of society. Unfortunately the numbers are enormous and the task onerous, but they are doing a remarkable job and are slowly changing the lives of many of these young people.
In 2015 the Department approached Outward Bound to run the wilderness element of some of their diversion programmes. These are for groups of young people who have been in conflict with the law, usually as first-time offenders, and their crimes range from petty theft to stock theft, sexual assault and drug dealing. These young people all come from extremely difficult backgrounds and the courts request that they attend diversion programmes instead of sending them to jail.
Over the course of the year we have run a number of these courses and the results have been startling. In the beginning the participants usually don’t want to be there and many of them ask to leave. What is amazing to watch is how those who realise that they have been given a second change by attending the course persuade those that want to leave to stay, turn their lives around and make something of themselves. To date all the participants have completed their courses and the feedback that we receive has been outstanding. When speaking to the individual participants towards the end of the courses, they all mention that they understand why they are there and talk of learning lessons such as patience, tolerance, perseverance and self-confidence. They talk about thinking hard before committing acts such as fighting or stealing.
These groups of young people are part of a year-long diversion programme of which Outward Bound is only a short part, but it is proving to be a vital element in their rehabilitation. This is most evident in the fact that the Department have approached Outward Bound to run more programmes again this year. We thank them for their support and wish the young people every success in turning their lives around.