Youth Volunteering Role in Poverty Reduction and National Development Strategies

Jen Van Heerden

Name Jen Van Heerden
Country South Africa
Organization Action Volunteers Africa

Youth Volunteering Role in Poverty Reduction and National Development Strategies

Two fairly fundamental components to any national poverty reduction or development strategy are quality education for children, and meaningful employment for school-leavers and adults. Apart from the direct benefits of literacy and numeracy, quality education has innumerable positive side-effects, including boosting children’s self-esteem and giving them a sense of purpose. Similarly, meaningful employment goes so much further than an increase in household consumption. With a good job, an employee can expand their social and economic networks and reach self-actualisation, which leads to a spike in confidence and aptitude to negotiate greater power in their social and economic lives.

Quality education and meaningful employment is the dual aim of the YearBeyond volunteer programme. YearBeyond is an initiative of the Western Cape provincial government in South Africa, implemented in partnership with a number of NGOs and private enterprises. YearBeyond recruits and trains bright and motivated school-leavers and university graduates, 18-25 years old, and places them in a school for a full year to tutor and mentor school-children. Volunteers go out to their assigned school every afternoon during the school term, delivering academic programming to a small group of self-selected learners. In the mornings, volunteers participate in an intense self-development programme designed to build their personal profile and improve their employment prospects. In this way, YearBeyond creates a sustainable pay-it-forward model of poverty reduction and development, where an investment in a small number of volunteers grows exponentially larger as the volunteers invest in local school-children.

YearBeyond believes in the potential of youth and in the capacity they have for making substantial changes in their communities, particularly in an environment that they can relate to so well: a school in a neighbourhood that is similar to their own. We also believe that the full effect of the youth volunteer role can only be realised through cooperation and collaboration of a large number of state, civil society, and private enterprise partners. The YearBeyond partnership is a complicated one, but it allows for the youth volunteer role to be realized in innovative and ground-breaking ways.


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