Creative Youth Boot Camp-Art for Social Transformation
The Street Project Foundation is a social enterprise using creative art as a tool to facilitate youth development and economic empowerment. The organisation developed and implemented the Creative Youth Boot Camp-Art for Social Transformation project, which worked with one hundred (100) young people aged 16 to 25 years old gifted in music, dance, drama, visual arts, photography, creative writing, poetry and fashion. The project supported them in turning their creative talents into a profitable enterprise that provides social good for their communities. 60% of the youths who attended the “Creative Youth Boot Camp: Art for Social Transformation” were accelerated through mentorships, internships, scholarships, fellowships, and grants. Thereby validating the impact of the accelerator model to SPF’s youth engagement cycle model of discovery, training, showcase, mentorships and internships. 12% of the rightsholders were creative youths living with disabilities. Below is the story of Pelemo Nyajo, a young lady who participated in the Creative Youth Boot Camp.
I was born with a bow leg and grew up feeling excluded. My bones were brittle from birth and even with corrective surgery, I had to walk around with visible metals inserted in my legs. I also needed the aid of crutches to move around. I lacked the confidence to raise my voice against the social ills I faced in society and social injustices I saw people in my community face. When my condition really got to me was when a child screamed and cried in the mall on seeing me. My mom was overly protective of me, and I was often secluded in my room. Being excluded socially from my peers brought me a lot of mental health stress and anguish because I couldn’t socialize with my peers.
When Street Project Foundation put out a call for application for the Creative Youth Boot Camp: Art for Social Transformation, the communication materials specifically stated that Persons With Disabilities are encouraged to apply. This clause attracted me to apply online. I found out about the program on the radio and I was excited that a creative programme such as this was interested in including persons that looked like me. However, when I was invited for the auditions, I did not show up. The project team then called me and found out where I lived. What surprised me was that they came to my home to audition me. This entire process of selection gave me hope and fortunately for me, I was admitted to participate in the boot camp.
During the boot camp, my daily mobility from home to the boot camp was supported and the experience of meeting four other persons with disabilities and bonding with others who are not living with the same physical challenges was therapeutic for me. As time went on, I blossomed in the art of spoken word, thanks to the support I received from the bootcamp. After graduation, I was exposed to several opportunities to perform in public spaces. The big turning point for me was during the VOICE @ 5 Stage Performance. I was the opening act and leading up to that day and I remembered feeling nervous about the opportunity. However, it allowed me to face my fears and working with the curators and mentors in preparation for the event helped me discover my own strength. When I got on stage, I exhibited a level of confidence that I had never exhibited in my life. The performance was a great leap for me and since then, there has been no turning back. Ever since, I have been performing at very important functions, where I get paid. Today, I currently serve as a member of the International Youth Advisory Committee for the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and I make a living doing what I love.