A Walk In Their Shoes: An Original Poem from An IAWA Ambassador

IAWA Ambassador Motlalepule is 16-years-old and in the 10th grader. She loves to read and write.  It is her dream to inspire the world with her words.  Watch her recite an original poem that she shared with her fellow ambassadors. (the words are below so you can follow along).

A Poem of Motivation and Encouragement
by IAWA Ambassador Motlalepule (Betty)

"Don’t let people compromise you.

Be who you are, be a motivator leader for yourself.

I am a leader I don’t let people change me. I don’t live low.

Take time to change, you don’t belong where you are now.

My question is how long will it take for you to change or make a decision?

Be who you are created to be.

Step out of your comfort zone.

Make a new life by being the person you are created to be.

Prove them wrong.

All I can say is get up, be a leader of yourself, don’t get to slow to stand for yourself."

Milestones: IAWA's Going to Cape Town

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We are headed to Cape Town October 2018!

At IAWA’s 5th Bokgoni Empowerment Camp, that took place April 3rd – 15th, Ambassadors conducted research to determine where in South Africa they would like to visit and how much it would cost. A budget was created once they completed their research. Their research included lodging, activities, food, and transportation. The Ambassadors will be responsible for raising one-fourth of the funds required to attend the trip or R 38 975 (approximately $3,000). We are asking their parents to contribute one-fourth as well and IAWA will cover the remaining expenses, estimated at R116 925 (approximately $8,000).

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At our 6th camp that took place on July 10th – 22nd the Ambassadors learned more about marketing, finance, and operations to effectively plan for their Cape Town trip. The Ambassadors participated in an IAWA version of Shark Tank. They were split into three groups. Each group represented one of their agreed upon fundraising ideas; a talent show, a concert, and a car wash. The Ambassadors used recently acquired marketing, sales, and presentation skill to pitch their ideas to the group at the end of the week. 

 “IAWA’s focus is to take every cohort on a trip as a part of their capstone,“ stated Executive Director, Meisha Robinson. The trip is designed to celebrate their last year in the Bokgoni programme. "Our pilot cohort is currently in their third year and will finish next year at the end of grade 11," she stated. “Through the fundraising process, the ambassadors will learn and apply entrepreneurship principles. They will not only gain valuable experience; they will have earned their trip." Meisha hopes these experiences empower Ambassadors as they plan their futures post-matric.

Our April and July camps have been extended from one week to two weeks. The second week of camp will be dedicated to math tutoring. Math tutoring will now be offered at ever camp.   IAWA is partnering with the Royal Bafokeng Institute (RBI) to conduct the maths tutoring program. Dave Ryan, who is leading this initiative, has already jumped in with both feet.  Outside of the camps, he even virtually assists the Ambassadors with their math homework. Ambassadors send photos of a troublesome problems and Dave sends back step by step examples on how to solve it.

Travel Partners: A Documentary on IAWA is in the Works

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Twilight Ebb Productions also attended our July camp to document IAWA's work to date. Filmmakers James Williams and Paul Stafford, from the US and UK respectively, graciously agreed to create the documentary pro bono.

To provide a well-rounded perspective, the documentary will not only tell IAWA’s story, but also the plight of unemployed South African youth and the challenges they must overcome.  

"I truly didn't know what to expect traveling to South Africa except that I'd be helping tell IAWA and Meisha's story," James stated. "What I came away with was an enlightening experience as a visitor to the Bafokeng culture and the privilege of meeting 20 of the brightest teenagers in South Africa!" 

James and Paul, also took four aspiring filmmakers under their wing.  The four local youth-out-of-school spent a week volunteering on set learning the ins and outs of lighting, sound, and shooting. "We learned so much.  We really appreciate everything that Paul and James did for us. It really means a lot," shared 0mphemetse Motene.  

The final film will be no more than 20 minutes in length. We are looking forward to welcoming Twilight Ebb back to Phokeng, April 2018, to share the final film.  Everyone that participated in the film will be invited to the opening release.

Travel Partners: Jelani Girls Collaboration

Jelani Girls Inc. is an American nonprofit helping young woman re-imagine what it means to be GREAT. Through cultural enrichment programs and international youth service projects Jelani Girls (JG) empowers young women to achieve greatness.
 
JG brought 7 girls, from across the US, to IAWA's July camp.  JG and IAWA went on a game drive in Pilanesburg and motivated youth at a home for Orphans and Vulnerable Children for Mandela’s Birthday ensemble.  The JG girls partnered with an IAWA Ambassador to explore their community.  JG also sponsored some of IAWA's ambassadors to tour Soweto and the Apartheid Museum with their JG partners.  IAWA's Ambassadors were selected based on an essay they wrote on the impact they want to have on the world.

Thank you to Jelani Girls for helping us to create this impactful experience and for sponsoring our girls to join you in Johannesburg.

 In July, IAWA also entered into a new partnership with World of Money! Thanks to World of Money (WOM), financial literacy education will now be included in our curriculum. WOM is a New York based non-profit organization whose mission is to empower youth with an immersive classroom and mobile education in personal finance capability.  Ambassadors can access WOM's app on IAWA's tablets or their own smartphones.

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Walk With Us: Seeking New Board Members

Do you want to get more involved with IAWA? Are you looking for opportunities to give back? If so, IAWA is looking for you! We are actively recruiting individuals to join our Board of Directors and Board of Advisors. As the end of our fiscal year approaches, we are looking to refresh and enhance our support team. If you are interested, please submit your letter of interest to iamweareyouth@gmail.com by October 15, 2017.

IAWA’s Board of Directors is a working board that actively guides IAWA forward in its mission to create a world where all youth are socially engaged, globally aware, and economically free. Directors meet monthly and assist with fundraising, marketing and communications, administration, monitoring and evaluation, and curriculum development.

Board of Advisors meet twice a year to provide strategic counsel. They also contribute to fundraising and serve as spokespeople for IAWA. Members of both boards will be committed to their respective positions for two years.

IAWA is looking for dedicated, creative, and passionate volunteers to support our fundraising, marketing and communications, curriculum development, monitoring and evaluation, and operations committees. No matter where your interests lie IAWA has a spot for you.

For more information or to apply contact: iamweareyouth@gmail.com

Travel Partners

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IAWA would like to thank our biggest supporter the Royal Bafokeng Nation (RBN). RBN is a traditionally governed community and the ethnic homeland of the Bafokeng people, located in the Northwest Province of South Africa. RBN is on a mission to create an enabling environment for the prosperity of current and future generations by developing the people, the economy, and the land. RBN has assisted IAWA by providing food and transport for the Ambassadors for camps and field trips. The Royal Bafokeng Health and Social Development Services staff have not only provided social services to the Ambassadors, but have assisted with recruiting Ambassadors, obtaining meeting space, recruiting volunteers, and transport. Additionally, the Royal Bafokeng Institute (RBI) staff provided guidance and assisted IAWA gain entrance into the schools. IAWA would like to give a special thanks to Kgosi Leruo Molotlegi for his support and dedication to the Bokgoni Empowerment Programme. We would also like to thank George Harris, former head of RBI, and Dr. Kebalepile Mokgethi, CEO, Royal Bafokeng Health and Social Development Services.

Ra Shad Frazier-Gaines

Ra Shad Frazier-Gaines will serve as the IAWA Chairman for the Board of Directors through June 2017. He is a Native of Aiken, South Carolina, he currently resides in Washington, DC. Ra Shad has a background in political strategy, campaign & event management, and logistics. His personal passions include social justice and defending the underdog. Ra Shad's philanthropic efforts started with volunteering with 4-H in elementary school, Interact in high school, and hosting small fundraisers for Helping Hands, Inc. - a home for children who need a change of scenery in his hometown. Ra Shad is also a founder and the Chairman of Black Progressives and the Black Caucus of the Young Democrats of America. 

Where We Work

Africa's First Satellite

Africa is planning on launching its first private satellite into outer space in May of 2017. Even more astounding, most of the satellite is being built by 14 South African teenage girls who participated in a high school science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) bootcamp! The students are being trained by satellite engineers from Cape Peninsula University of Technology. South Africa’s Meta Economic Development Organization (MEDO) purchased the satellite. The satellite payload designed by these young ladies will orbit the Earth and scan the surface of Africa to gather data to improve food security in the region.

Thermal images and data gathered from the satellite will predict where droughts and floods may occur in Africa in the future. In a CNN interview Sesam Mngqengqiswa, from Philippi High School stated, “in South Africa we have experienced some of the worst floods and droughts and it has really affected the farmers very badly.” Seseam and a few of her fellow teammates dream of exploring outer space for themselves. Brittany Bull from Pelican Park High School stated, “I want to show to fellow girls that we don’t need to sit around or limit ourselves. Any career is possible- even aerospace.” IAWA is proud to support these teenage ladies and all youth blazing their own trails! Read more here.

Walk In Their Shoes: Meet Tshwetso

My name is Tshwetso and I am passionate, loyal, and caring. I live in the Northwest province of South Africa, in a village called Chaneng. I like to play soccer and I am an IAWA Guest Ambassador for the Career Symposium. The IAWA youth program helped me with career information to make sure I choose the right career for me.  I like IAWA because it helped me through thick and thin during my first week. I wanted to be a lawyer but I was not sure until I met Meisha Robinson. Meisha guides us so we don’t lose focus on what we want in the future and also that we must leave a legacy behind for our children.  I learned that if you have passion, love, kindness, and happiness in what you want then no one can stop you to do what is right. With all my heart I would like to say thank you to I Am, We Are Youth campaign.

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Milestones: IAWA's First Career Symposium

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IAWA’s most recent Bokgoni Empowerment Camp was the best in our yearlong history hands down! We could not have asked for a more successful ending to our first year. During the camp in October, we hosted IAWA’s first Career Symposium. The Ambassadors had the opportunity to learn from more than 25 professionals and 6 university students. The panelist careers spanned a variety of industries including: retail, hospitality services, engineering, finance, IT, and geology just to name a few. The speakers were chosen based on the Ambassadors future career interests. 

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The Ambassadors learned how to be gracious hosts and skilled panel moderators over the course of the week. After one of the panel discussions, Jobie Bakama, CEO of Callback Dreams said, “this is a phenomenal program with an amazing group of kids. I would certainly comeback and partner with I Am, We Are again.”  Many Ambassadors were matched with mentors throughout the career symposium. “It was amazing to see the Ambassadors approaching guest panelist and asking for mentorship,” stated communications volunteer Mi’Lisa Patton. “The smiles that would appear on both faces were indescribable.”   

The Ambassadors also had a field trip to participate in a soccer camp hosted by the Special Olympics. During the field trip the Ambassadors interacted with Special Olympics Athletes and Partners. Through this experience the Ambassadors learned to accept and include all people. When asked about his experience Kamogelo, an IAWA Ambassador, stated, “I want to come back, we are more than friends we are brothers.”

Travel Partners

This past year IAWA had the opportunity to partner with some amazing organizations! During the month of July IAWA Ambassadors met with Global Kids youth from Washington, DC at Constitution Hill in South Africa. Our Ambassadors learned about the history of Apartheid and the lasting effects South Africans are still fighting to end. They also had a chance to interact with American youth, gaining a new perspective of the global community.

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 The Victoria House Foundation (VHF) kindly donated 5 tablets to our Ambassadors. Their donation has helped to expand the perspectives of our Ambassadors by allowing them to partake in virtual mentoring sessions. IAWA looks forward to working with VHF again in the future as we work to procure computers for our Ambassadors.  IAWA thanked VHF and celebrated their contributions at their annual Connect to Empower Gala on September 12th in Annapolis, Maryland.

The Ascendance Fashion Show on September 15th in New York, New York was a beautiful mix of fashion, culture, and advocacy. The fashion show was used as a platform to help drive awareness for IAWA. The designers that hosted The Ascendance Fashion Show are committed to helping IAWA raise $5,000 by the end of October.

We would like to take this time to thank our travel partners and we look forward to continuing the work we have started with them. If you would like to partner with IAWA or know of someone who would please contact us.

Where We Work

Zulaikha Patel

Youth in South Africa are currently using their voice to inspire change. Zulaikha Patel is a 13 year old South African youth who used her voice to stand against racist hair policies upheld by her school. She found the courage to speak up for herself and her classmates, defending their right to wear their hair in its natural state. 

Zulaikha’s voice has garnered global attention. IAWA salutes Zulaikha Patel and encourages all youth to find their voice and stand in their truth. In a statement Zulaikha said, “In my mind, I was prepared for this. I was fighting for every black child in this country. It’s time our cries are heard.” As protest in South Africa continues IAWA hopes their cries will lead to lasting change in their communities.  You can read more on this story here.

A Walk In Their Shoes: Meet Thembi

IAWA Ambassador

IAWA Ambassador, Thembi, is a 15 year old in grade 9 at Charora High School. In her spare time she enjoys reading, listening to music, cooking, and writing poetry and short stories. Thembi desires to be a doctor and a part-time radio presenter. “All I want is to make my family proud. My mom is a single mom so I have to work hard on my school work to make her proud,” said Thembi.

 “I know that I will make it and succeed at whatever I work on. Nothing is impossible when Jesus is by my side,” she stated. It is Thembi’s dream to bring happiness and peace to her family. 

Milestones: Second Year of Bokgoni Empowerment Programme

Bokgoni Empowerment Camps

Next month we will start our second year of the Bokgoni Youth Empowerment Programme Camps. We cannot believe it has already been a year since our inaugural camp last October. Our Ambassadors have grown so much and we are ecstatic to share their progress with you. Be sure to check out our social media pages for updates during the camp. Camp will take place October 1st-8th, 2016. IAWA is grateful to welcome the return of our curriculum development volunteer, Tyrice McCoy and our communications volunteer Mi’Lisa Patton.

Tyrice is returning for her third camp and Mi’Lisa is returning for her second camp. “I am so excited to return to South Africa and see how much the Ambassadors have grown over the course of the past year,” Mi’Lisa stated.  “Working with this group of inspirational youth has blessed my soul in a way I’ve never previously experienced.” “I’m so dedicated to what I Am, We Are is, and has become, because of the vision, the children, and the vast possibilities. I will keep coming back to be a part of this wonderful organization for as long as I am able,” cited Tyrice.  Founder and Executive Director, Meisha Robinson is elated to have these two volunteers return to kickoff year two. Meisha declared, “It is because of the dedication and scarifies of our volunteers that IAWA will be hosting its 4th Bokgoni Empowerment Camp in the coming weeks. Thank you for returning and I look forward to working with you ladies again as we continue the mission of IAWA.”