Plan to steer youth away from gangs

The Youth Desk team, back from left, are Mikhail Jurd, Aaisha January, Tharwat Isaacs and Jaden Arendse. Front: Azhaar Isaacs, Charlene Titus, Chanel Baatjies, Jade Daniels. Seated is Athlone police spokeswoman Sergeant Zita Norman.

The Athlone police have started an initiative to keep youngsters out of gangs and focused on achieving their goals.

The Youth Desk was launched on Tuesday March 16 at Bokmakierie Primary School, and it’s made up of eight members from the Athlone community.

Athlone police spokeswoman Sergeant Zita Norman said the group had been elected based on their commitment to improving their community.

The initiative will tackle training, unemployment, crime prevention, youth programmes and more to keep young people occupied.

“The Youth Desk was developed for all young people in all communities, redressing the wrongs of the past and addressing the specific challenges facing youth,” she said.

“The aim is to reach a desired outcome for young people who are able to realise their full potential and understand their roles and responsibilities in making a meaningful contribution in the development of our communities which are ridden with youth in crime, depression, suicidal thoughts, unemployment , domestic violence just to mention a few.”

The Youth Desk would help young people to become self-sufficient and join crime-fighting initiatives, she said.

The team will work with government departments, NGOs, religious groups and other organisations. They will investigate the causes of crime committed by young offenders and will cater for people aged 14 to 35.

Michael Jurd, one of the youth mentors, said young people would now have a safe and confidential way to air their issues as many did not want to confide in their parents or adults. And the Youth Desk would also help young people land jobs and draw up CVs, he said.

“We have two young moms on the team who will help motivate other teenage moms to get their lives on track again and strive to achieve their goals. The community really needs to support them so that we can make a success of this.”

Team member Cindy Lee Jacobs, said drug abuse, teenage pregnancy, domestic violence, sexual abuse, and poverty needed to be focused on. Many young people had no vision as they grew up in poverty and lacked positive role models.

“This is a great initiative,” she said. “We will bring opportunities and positive aspects into the area. We will serve the youth and come up with projects to help them. I wish I had this when I was younger to help the youth back then. Youth really need a vision for their lives. They have no optimism or motivation; they are just trying to get through life every day.”