Ravensmead is a small coloured community based in the Northern Suburbs outside of Cape Town. This isolated area, like many others, is generally associated with gangsterism, drug addiction and alcohol abuse. Over this past year there have been a number of reports on missing children and gang-related killings.

Young children are exposed to drugs and violence from as young as 12 years old. Some drop out of school even before they reach high school level, and as a result, they struggle to find decent jobs. They later resort to crime as the only way in which they can make a living. As coloured youth and partly as a result of the apartheid system, our elders are especially hard on us to make something of ourselves. With all these negative influences surrounding the youth of Ravensmead, this behavior is understandable.

It seems as though we have been pushed aside as a community and left to fend for ourselves. About the only time we get the needed attention is when it becomes time for voting. This is really sad. However, a number of non-profit organizations help support poorer communities like Ravensmead. For instance, YoungPeople@Work is a new generation organization that supports unemployed youth to access decent jobs. They regard “working on oneself as the most productive work.” They provide skills training and job placements, as well as outreach and networking. YMCA Ravensmead is a youth and community development organization that is located at Ravensmead Civic Centre.

I believe that Ravensmead has a lot of potential, especially where the youth are concerned. Having said that, it is worth mentioning that despite having been confronted by these social ills, many have risen above their circumstances to become very successful individuals. For instance, Winslow Schalkwyk (performance poet and creative writing facilitator), Lendy Swartbooi (author of Bookie in The Community), and Vernon Philander and Alfonso Thomas (talented South African cricketers) all grew up in Ravensmead.

As a community, we need more than motivation. We need assistance. We need more emotional wellness and personal development programs. Apart from the social problems that poor communities face, there are also other psychological issues that need to be addressed. These may include feelings of hopelessness and a lack of self-confidence and motivation. These are the problems that need to be dealt before we can focus on anything else.

The City of Cape Town needs to invest more time and resources in poorer communities like Ravensmead, Uitzig, Belhar, Delft, and Bontheuwel in order for them to grow and develop. We need new creative programs to keep our kids occupied. Our sports and gaming facilities are few to none, and our library needs a serious upgrade compared to the libraries in Bellville and Parow.

All we hear are bad news when it comes to these areas, whether we read them in the newspaper or see them on television. Yet, nobody seems to be doing anything about it. Nobody seems to care, not enough anyway.

So, perhaps we need a public forum? The Ravensmead Civic Centre and the Fountain Christian Community Centre are good places to start. For me, this is the most fundamental. I believe that effective communication is the key to effective living, so let’s start with the youth. Our young people need a place where they can express their concerns and opinions safely.

It also builds confidence in them, so that they can find solutions to their own problems and create opportunities for themselves. Let’s help our community by helping and supporting our youth. Let’s inspire the youth of Ravensmead to become leaders, each and every one of them. No-one should feel left out.


Tell us: Why do you think people who have made it out of poor communities rarely plough back in their home towns?