Belinda Maistry used the
Teaching Respect activity
kit to “grow a fellowship
and strengthen bonds” with
the kids in her youth
“I would be dead today if I had never received full-on recovery,” says Belinda Maistry, an IBM coordinator for parts ordering based in Johannesburg, South Africa. “I want to be there to offer the help to others that was so freely given to me.”
Belinda’s husband Kevin, who has been sober for 28 years, founded Silkworth Recovery and Care Centre in late 2015 as a no-charge rehabilitation center for substance abusers. Belinda has been volunteering and working closely with him to establish the center and spread its reach.
“I’m also a recovered alcoholic, clean and sober for five years,” she says. “My passion started out to give substance abusers hope that they can lead lives free from substance.”
In 2016, Kevin and Belinda were asked by their local municipality to offer their services in Dukathole, an informal settlement about half an hour from Johannesburg.
“Once we moved in we saw the need for a preventative approach, so we started a substance abuse awareness and prevention initiative with local schools, and that led to our Saturday youth program.”
A good place to start: respect
Silkworth, whose patients and participants run from eight years old to nearly 90 years old, aims to promote companionship among alcoholics and addicts, and motivate them to join support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous—anything to assist in their recovery.
Yet the organization’s Youth Life Skills program strives to help young people from ever reaching that point; to share the dangers of substance abuse with as many learners as possible in the settlement and surrounding area.
“I have always wanted to work with young people who are facing these problems and this is perfect,” Belinda says.
Meeting every other Saturday, the program has between 15 and 20 teens from two primary schools in the area, plus a high school. The center provides them with a safe environment for activities and positive bonding; IBM Activity Kits have found a role in the program too.
“When I began the youth program, I really didn’t have a clue where to start,” Belinda admits. “The IBM kits saved me from needing to research and create our own materials, and gave me ready-to-use activities.”
The first IBM Activity Kit she used was “Teaching Respect.”
“In order to grow a fellowship and strengthen bonds, I thought the first step would be to respect one another, our different values, goals and circumstances,” she explains. “Without this we will not be able to build a better community, but it also had to be done in a fun way without the youth feeling like you were lecturing or preaching to them.”
Despite the kit being specifically created for young people, Belinda was fearful she wouldn’t get the message across or be understood.
She says that once the teens got over their initial skepticism, the informal approach of the kit helped them open up; that they were able to see that we are all basically the same, human nature does not really change.
“By the end of the session, it definitely brought me closer to the kids, broke the ice, and even though it wasn’t perfect, I told the kids it was also new to me and we were going to learn together.”
Confidence, understanding, and purpose
Today, Belinda says that she runs most of the program using IBM Activity Kits.
“The kits are my life savers,” she says. “Some are a bit too complicated at this stage, but once I get a little more confident I’ll tackle the ones like Help Kids Go Green and Puzzles Galore.” Belinda also plans to use an IBM website to give several of the kids exposure to basic computer skills.
She is also gaining more confidence in how to best be of service as a new comer.
“It is not easy to gain the trust of the community because of a distrust of outsiders,” she says. “I did not know about their world, and I have had to take the time to learn from the kids about what they face on a daily basis, what their fears are—how they feel they are in a hopeless situation and don’t deserve a better life. I am starting to see smiles, which is amazing.”
Belinda would like the eight schools in the area to become part of the program, bringing their potential reach to 8000 to 10000 learners.
She’s also hoping to attract other outside volunteers to join her—some of whom may be uncertain about safety in the informal settlement, though that can be overcome with more information and understanding.
However, for now, Belinda says, “I love seeing joy and hope coming out of these sessions, the idea that the kids are not bound by their circumstances, and that it is never too late for them.”
She adds, “I feel I have found my purpose in life today.”
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