Youth Peacemaker Network launched

Cutting the ribbon to officially open the Bridgetown-based community learning centre are, Caroline Descombris, executive director of the WPDI, Regan Adams, the CEO of RCS, and Vikas Khandelwal, the CEO of BNP Paribas, South Africa.

The Youth Peacemaker Network, the flagship programme of the Whitaker Peace and Development Initiative (WPDI) South Africa, will see young people from the Cape Flats being trained as peacemakers and learn valuable skills.

The WPDI is an international organisation which was started by American actor and activist, Forest Whitaker, in 2012.

The South African chapter of the programme was started last year.

Similar programmes to the one launched in Bridgetown on Wednesday August 21, are also running in Mexico, South Sudan, America and Uganda.

The WPDI works with youth to develop their skills as leaders and peace and community builders.

The centre in Bridgetown, based on the premises of the Cape Town Association for the Physically Disabled, will train youth in Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), business skills and will be used as a centre for peace.

A total of 46 youth were selected to be on this programme for one year. They were recruited with the help of community leaders, schools and non-government organisations. They will be trained as peace ambassadors and will implement peace initiatives in their communities.

Professor Brian Williams, known for his work around peace ambassadors, said he designed the programme and content.

“Forest Whitaker adopted the programme in 2012. That was when he was visiting here and I trained him in peace. So far, we have completed our first leg of peace training. One needs to learn peace in order to multiply peace. This programme is not anti-gangs, it is pro-peace. We are building new consciousness of peace. All the darkness of the world cannot distinguish the light of a candle. Our young people are the candles,” Professor Williams said.

The WPDI’s Chance Chagunda said countries such as Uganda and South Sudan face similar challenges as those on the Cape Flats, hence it was decided to bring to programme here.

“In 2012 we did research, then we started the programme in South Africa in 2018 and had fundraisers. The recruitment of staff kicked-off in January this year. Now we have our skills centre and peace training centre,” Mr Chagunda said.

Chandre Fortune from Eastridge in Mitchell’s Plain is a youth activist. She said being part of the WPDI is a bonus for her to expand on her work – even outside the borders of Mitchell’s Plain.

Kayla Isaacs from Beacon Valley, Mitchell’s Plain, said the reason she joined the programme was to bring peace to communities and to make positive changes.

The programme is supported by corporates RCS and BNP Paribas, South Africa.