From 2011 it has been our goal to own a ‘base camp’ – a safe space where creative leaders can meet, access programs and services, and advance their own ideas for developing their communities. The staff and Fellows of From the Roots share a common experience of working with young people in Durban,KwaZulu Natal and it can be devastating to see them struggling, trying to survive. There is so much potential and there are so many opportunities that poor youth can create for themselves and to better their communities, but it’s not easy. In every poor community there is a common list of challenges that are preventing civilians from enhancing their livelihoods. The common reason why poor communities are so poor is that they are deprived justice. That deprivation restricts them from liberating themselves from poverty. There is no easy way out. Making a living through their talent and business is what most youth in poor communities want, but the common reality they face can be overwhelming – added to a severe is lack of relevant information, resources and mentorship.
At the base camp we will provide activists, artists and social entrepreneurs with a safe space to meet, work, and collaborate, supported with internet access, workshops and trainings. In addition, expression sessions of music, rap, poetry, and other art forms will be featured as sources of inspiration. We believe that if the base camp can be a source of both inspiration and practical support, then these creative leaders can impact the rest of their community and livelihoods will be enhanced.
In July 2017, David Flynn, the Founder of From the Roots, traveled to South Africa to meet its two founding fellows, Sihle Ndima and me, determined to do whatever was necessary to buy a base camp. After a week of brainstorming, all options were finally laid out on the table. We pooled the money we have been saving over the past five years and reached out to our friends and the friends of the organization for support, connections, and loans. Amazingly enough, after we sent out the request for help, it took only one day to get a loan to put us over the top. The next day we met our real estate agent and closed the deal on the best property he had shown us. We did it. I personally learned that a team with a collective goal can achieve greatness.
But the work is only starting. As the leaders of From the Roots we live far apart from each other, but the base camp will bring us very close through technology, just as it brings members of the community closer in person. From the beginning, we have been driven to connect youth from around the world – be it across a table or through Skype – and spark conversations about fighting injustice and making the world a better place. Owning our first base camp is achieved. The dream is becoming a reality. Let’s see where we can take it from here.