Western Cape Premier Helen Zille was moved to tears when she received a very special gift at a book launch at Cape Town-based NPO Salesian Life Choices on 30 June.
Zille, who was a guest of honour at the launch, was overcome with emotion after her speech at the event in Landsdowne when Pogiso Motubatsi, a mine worker and freelance artist from North West province presented her with a framed pencil sketch he had made of her. Motubatsi, known as PJay, is one of 20 artists who illustrated the Cape Town Youth Book that was launched on Friday night.
The event was attended by more than 100 people and also served as the official opening of a brand new Vocational Academy at Salesian Life Choices.
Motubatsi, a self-trained artist from Potchefstroom who currently works at Impala Platinum mine in Rustenburg, said it’s always been a dream to meet “Mom Helen” and when he heard she was going to be at the launch, he spent all his free time between shifts in the mine to complete the artwork.
Zille said she was deeply honoured to receive the “perfect” pencil drawing from Motubatsi. The Premier described the evening as very inspiring. “Sometimes one feels a bit down about the future, but everybody who feels down just needs to come to an evening like this.”
She praised the young people whose stories feature in the Cape Town Youth Book. “The important thing about these stories is that it shows even in the most difficult circumstances, people have opportunities to make choices,” she said.
“I’m so inspired by young people who’ve learnt at a very tender age what it’s taken me decades to learn. Their stories show a dedication to the truth; they show young people have a capacity to take responsibility, to defer gratification and to develop judgement and wisdom way beyond their years. Above all, they have the capacity to make the right choices because they recognise opportunities. The Life Choices programmes are precisely the right catalyst young people need as a launch pad in life.”
Premier Zille’s heart-warming speech was preceded by a panel discussion where three of the young people who feature in the book discussed their life stories with MC Marco Spaumer. Cabangile Mdluli, Theo Booysen and Apoline Tchikumba’s experiences of overcoming loss, abuse and violence made quite an impact on the audience. Artist Robyn Pretorius explained how growing up in the Cape Flats informed her illustration for the Cape Town Youth book and photographer Peter Harper shared his experience of taking the beautiful portraits for the book.
Managing director of Salesian Life Choices Sofia Neves talked about the organisation’s philosophy of giving young people choices, not charity through services in key areas such as family stability, health, education, leadership and employment. “We promote dignity, not dependency,” Sofia said. “We invest in youth to make choices that can change themselves, their communities and the world. Our mission is to tackle inequality. People are born into the world as assets, it is the way we treat them, that makes them a liability.”
Sofia also introduced the brand new Life Choices Academy that will start with job-training programmes later in July intended to give school-leavers the skills and direction they need to land meaningful and well-paying jobs.
Natalie du Toit, one of the most successful disabled athletes of all times and inspirational speaker, talked about her role as ambassador for the #YChallenge social media campaign and the 30 Stories in 30 Days Youth Month initiative that inspired the Cape Town Youth book. “I believe in the youth because they have not been tainted by the past, they are open to communication and to the rest of the world,” Natalie said.
The night was attended by young people, artists, dignitaries, friends of Life Choices such as Danilo Acquisto (who is also a board member) and staff members of Life Choices. It was filled with joy, laughter, inspiration and a huge sense of hope and belief in youth and the future.
Guests were full of praise for Salesian Life Choices’ new facilities and the opportunities they help create for young people. “It was wonderful to view the beautiful artwork and hear the stories of resilience,” said Lucille Meyer. Board member Linda Roos described the evening as the “highlight of my year”.
“Every single person involved glowed with positivity, accomplishment, and hope,” said artist Maggi Best. “A great love was palpable among participants and guests. The evening flowed with a shared love and enthusiasm.”
A copy of the Cape Town Youth book can be ordered on Salesian Life Choices’ website.