Just Three Camps Left


IAWA Ambassadors have now finished their 7th Bokgoni Empowerment Camp, we cannot believe they are only 3 camps away from being our first graduating cohort. The Ambassadors put skills previously learned into practice, picking up new gems along the way.

This camp differed from our usual camps, as the Ambassadors created most of the week's schedule. Each fundraising group – talent show, concert, and carwash- developed a list of actions items that needed to be accomplished before the end of camp. Each day the Ambassadors would go out with their assigned facilitator and work on their team assignments and report back to the group on what had been accomplished the next morning.  This was a great way for them to learn accountability and responsibility!

Through their grassroots outreach and fundraising efforts, the Ambassadors assisted Royal Bafokeng Sports/Jr. NBA with their biggest event of the year, the Finals Tournament. This partnership garnered R15,000 towards the Ambassadors trip to Cape Town next October!

Gratitude, thinking outside of the box and fundraising were the main topics addressed during the camp. The Ambassadors would start each day sharing statements of gratitude they’d written from their gratitude jar or reciting the IAWA Mantra. This simple act set the tone for the rest of the day.

Through lessons and energizers, the Ambassadors learned to be limitless and dream without boundaries.  IAWA Ambassadors learned about nonconformity and the importance of maintaining your beliefs despite the beliefs of others. They learned they must trust their own unique abilities even though others may view them as odd or unpopular. There is nothing wrong with approaching situations differently and creating new solutions.


Ambassadors unleashed their creativity and wrote, produced, and began editing their own short film with the assistance of POPPYN Coordinator, Nuala Cabrala. POPPYN (Presenting on Perspective On Philly Youth News) is a Philadelphia based award winning youth produced TV news program. They focus on issues that impact youth while highlighting the positive contributions of youth to their communities.

IAWA Ambassadors decided to use their video to warn youth about the dangers of nyaope. Nyaope is a fatal drug used by teens in their community. Final edits will be made by POPPYN youth in Philadelphia. We are excited about this cross-cultural collaboration. The film will be shown in April 14th at our film showcase!

The week was activity packed from beginning to end. The Ambassadors learned how to make SMART plans, readjust to changing conditions, and find innovative ways to move forward toward their goal of going to Cape Town!

I Am Man Conference

Last October, we hosted our first I Am Man Conference. I Am Man was a one-day conference focused on empowering boys and young men, of the Royal Bafokeng Nation.  Conference participants explored what does it mean to be a man, within the context of Steve Biko’s words, “Black man, you are on your own.”

Our male Ambassadors all attended and invited several of their friends. Men from the community also participated as elders and shared their experiences growing up from a boy into a man.

IAWA partnered with Brothers Empowered to Teach (BE2T), a New Orleans based organization dedicated to inspiring and incentivizing more men of color to choose education as their career, to host the conference. BE2T traveled with seven of their fellows, college-aged young adults whom all but one it was their first time outside of the US. IAWA youth facilitators and BET2 fellows co-facilitated the sessions.  Through this cross-cultural experience all of the men in attendance, young and old, saw they shared more similarities than differences growing up as black men whether in South Africa or America.

This open male only forum allowed the young men in attendance to truly open up and share some of the obstacles and challenges they were currently facing.  They were able to see they were not alone and there were others around them they could turn to. We are excited about what is to come, and we look forward to hosting a similar conference for young women soon!

Meet Ambassador Otshepeng

The artistic ability of our Ambassadors continues to inspire and amaze us.  Bright and observant perfectly describes IAWA Ambassador Otshepeng. She is a powerful, quiet soul who best expresses herself through words. She wanted to share the poem below with her extended IAWA family. She hopes her words will inspire you to pursue your own joy and happiness. 


You’re Not Alone In The Journey of Life

By: Otshepeng


There's no single woman in the world that hasn't struggled or overcame difficulties. 

At some point in your life, we all face challenges and discouragement.

At this very moment, you may be facing one, whether related to money, health, children, partners, family, or careers.  It's all part of being alive.

Recognize that obstacles are part of your journey.  Don't let them stop you and never give up.  Instead, think of them as milestones once passed, you'll be closer to your goals.

Remember, with every challenge, you become stronger, wiser, and more prepared for the rest of your journey. 

Our Visible Figures

A big round of applause is in order for Mr. Dave Ryan, the Royal Royal Bafokeng Institute's Numeracy Lead and Maths Teacher Extraordinaire.  We would like to thank Mr. Dave for his virtual tutoring assistance.  Over the last year, Mr. Dave has been assisting our Ambassadors with maths tutoring. Ambassadors share homework problems and principles over GroupMe and Mr. Dave responds with step-by-step instructions and guidance. “Mr. Dave has been a great help to me! He makes homework not so bad.” stated IAWA Ambassador Milisi.

Mr. Dave we would like to recognize you and say thank you for your dedication and assistance to our IAWA Ambassadors. You are truly making an impact and the Ambassadors' marks prove it!

Ubuntu in Action: Hurricane Maria Relief

Two months since Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands many residents are still living amongst rubble without electricity or drinkable water.  IAWA, on behalf of our ambassadors, donated Luci inflatable solar lights, mosquito nets, and water purification tablets to Defend PR.  Defend PR is a collective of Puerto Ricans diasporans that is supporting the relief efforts of local Puerto Rican organizations including, Incitiativa Comunitaria, Pensar Africa, Ecokits Puerto Rico, Nuestra Escuela and Taller Salud.

At our October Bokgoni camp, we discussed the devastation the flurry of hurricanes caused in the US and the Caribbean.  Since social responsibility is one of IAWA's core tenets, I shared with the Ambassadors that this an opportunity for us to truly exhibit buthu/ubuntu (humanity).  They responded by unanimously voting to forgo their usual learning excursion and instead use the funds to support hurricane relief efforts.  As one ambassador expressed, "we understand how horrible it must feel to lose everything."  

I was almost in tears when they shared their decision with me.  Not only did the ambassadors electively make a personal sacrifice, they did it joyfully.  It truly is a testament that what we have been teaching over the last two years is having impact.

The donated materials were distributed at the end of November to an Afro Boricua community in Loiza, Puerto Rico. I am extremely proud of the ambassadors for reaching across the Atlantic to help their brothers and sisters in need.  I also thank you because without your financial support we wouldn't have been able to make this happen.

Peace and blessings,

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."

IAWA's Going to Cape Town


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).


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.

A Documentary on IAWA is in the Works


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.

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.


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

RBN Logo

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.

Meet Ambassador 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.

IAWA Guest Ambassador Tshwetso

IAWA's First Career Symposium

Presenter Speaking at IAWA Career Symposium 2

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. 

IAWA ambassador speaking with career symposium presenter
iawa ambassadors at special olympics south africa camp

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.

ascendance fashion show

 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. 

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.”