The Rotary Club of Claremont teams up with Free To Grow to help Life Choice’s youth ‘stay strong’

Since 2005, Life Choices has positively influenced the lives of over 200,000 people by empowering them with choices rather than charity. A small but impactful NPO, Life Choices works in the Cape Flats community, offering health, education and welfare programmes.

It was this track record, underpinned by Life Choices’ guiding philosophy of servant leadership, which inspired two Rotary Clubs (Claremont in South Africa and Bamberg in Germany), to partner with the NPO as a beneficiary of the Rotary International Global Grant. This grant provides Rotary clubs and districts with funds to support organisations that respond to real community needs and create sustainable change.

Building a sustainable future through youth development

Life Choices is guided by the belief that no two people are the same and every individual requires a holistic approach to their personal development. It is this belief that makes Life Choices’ work particularly impactful for youth development – the significance of which is highlighted by Life Choices’ MD Sofia Neves:

Most young people in South Africa do not finish school. Out of every 100 children, only 40 reach Grade 12, four study further and only one will graduate from a tertiary institution. This means that many young people are not fully able to participate in a productive and sustainable future.

While some schools provide after-school classes, these generally aim to achieve a minimum pass rate and do not provide individualised support to students, or develop the soft skills that are critical for future success.”

Sofia Neves, Managing Director, Life Choices
Sofia Neves, Managing Director, Life Choices

Rotary Club of Claremont President, Jo Hobson, speaks to Life Choices’ holistic development model and the supporting role the Club plays:

“The Life Choices’ model incorporates leadership training, life skills, academic tutoring, mindfulness practices, career guidance, therapy and mentorship.

One aspect of our involvement is through mentoring; we provide an additional network of support, aligned to the mentees’ goals and the Rotary ethos of ‘service above self’.”

Jo Hobson, President of the Rotary Club of Clarement
Jo Hobson, President,
Rotary Club of Clarement

Staying Strong: addressing the need for resilience

Following a tough pandemic year – marred by learning disruptions, inadequate facilities and socio-economic challenges – it was evident that many learners were struggling emotionally. In the face of these challenges, Jo recognised that the learners could benefit from additional resilience skills. Having experienced first-hand the impact of Free To Grow’s wellbeing programme, Staying Strong, Jo knew that it was the perfect add-on to the leadership journey that Life Choices’ learners were on.

When asked why Staying Strong was the ‘perfect fit’, Jo explained that the practical and experiential learning methodology would stick. “Whether you are 17 or 40, Staying Strong is applicable,” she said, describing how “the flexibility of the material meant that it could be easily adapted to the grade 12 mindset without losing the impact of the critical concepts covered.”

Having partnered with Free To Grow before to deliver Courageous Conversations to Life Choices’ staff in 2021, Jo knew that the quality and facilitation of Staying Strong would be excellent. Beyond the programme, the Club also wanted to partner with an organisation whose values aligned to their own. “From humble beginnings on rural Western Cape farms, I have always valued how committed Free To Grow has remained to taking its wellbeing and growth programmes, so successfully used by big corporates, back into the community.”

Alinda Nortje, the founder and Executive Chair of Free To Grow shares in the Rotary’s passion for community service and empowerment.

“The work done by Life Choices, in partnership with Rotary Clubs, is close to Free To Grow’s heart, as all the partners share a common focus on growth and development. We, therefore, wanted to support the amazing youth development work being done.”

The impact

The one-day programme was presented to 129 learners on Saturdays over the course of a few months. This opportunity was deeply valued by the learners, as can be seen from their evaluation of different facets of the programme:

The Life Choices leaerners evaluation of Staying Strong

Staying Strong participants shared how the programme impacted their life.

“Before this programme, I was depressed and on the verge of giving up. Now I am fully motivated to pick up where I left off and work on myself.”

“I learned new ways to control my wellbeing – how I react to things. No matter what challenges you face, stay strong.”

With the help of Staying Strong, the learners were able to understand their role in taking ownership of their lives. This helped them gain valuable insight into how to cope with stress, build resilience and get back on track after slipping up.

In conclusion, Free To Grow facilitator, Natasha Wingrove shared her experience of presenting Staying Strong to the high-potential learners at Life Choices:

“These young men and women, currently in their final year of High School, show much resilience and self-awareness of their situations. Through Staying Strong, I have seen their eyes light up with hope. They were inspired knowing they are not alone, learning the importance of taking care of themselves and most importantly to ask for help. This programme has been immensely well-received, and I am assured that the learnings will stay with them for a long time to come.”