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Messages of Hope, Compassion and Courage Over the Voices of Violence

Service leader with learners under a tent that says City Year South Africa

This post is part of the series, “From the Service Front Lines,” written by service leaders. 

#PITW168: ‘’If You Want to Communicate Powerfully, Tell a Story’’

David Lee (19, 2017) states, “To the servant leader, people are not means to an end. They, are who service leaders serve and by doing so, bring out the best in them.’’ A service leader is a leadership philosophy in which the main goal of the leader is to serve. Ours is to strive to put the needs of people first and help people develop and perform as highly as possible. As PITW number 72 says, “The Highest Form of Leadership at City Year is that of the ‘Servant Leader.’”

A founding story, “The Beloved Community,” shares these words, “something must happen so as to touch the hearts and souls of men that they will come together, not because the law says it, but because it is natural and right” (Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.). Let me tell the story of Thuso,* a young man who is a ventilator for leadership and direction of what life is really about.

Serving at Bovet Primary School in Alexander is a great blessing and a milestone; I facilitate grade seven (7) who are future leaders in accordance to the club. The afternoon programme also known as the City Year Children Club (CYCC) serves learners from all backgrounds who have stories to share about the way they view life. Thuso a grade seven learner, who was born in the township of Alexander and a club member of the City Year Children’s Club, has a story. This is a learner who is known in the school as the one who seeks for a fight every chance he gets. Thuso is a person who is filled with anger and wanting to prove himself but little did the ones around him care about that. I got to know about his temper through a fright he had with another boy over R1, Yes, I do mean just R1. As little as I saw the fight, the bigger impact it had on the other learners was clear.

Learners on the playground high-fiving each other and service leaders

Violence and wars carry stories.  So too did the fight and it was about much more than just R1. The fight gave me the opportunity to find out more about him and have a one-on-one. In the mist of the fight, his shirt was torn, that made him angrier, and he was starting to shake, like someone who is really afraid of something. I asked him why he was angry, after all it is just a shirt.  He responded, “my mother will kick me out and my stepfather will hit me.”  As he was involved in many fights, his shirts were often torn.  He comes from a household that is worried less about his education and him, where violence is the language of communication.  This grew the violence in him and he took it out on others (peers).

PITW78: “Your Commitment Brings about the Commitment of Others,” I committed myself to show him that education is more than books, but is life. He asked me, why are you always willing to listen and always calm. I told him violence is not the key to anything, but a destroyer of life, I asked him to be part of the spelling bee competition and the PT crew to keep his mind off stuff. I tasked him to read a story about anything even if it is in his own language, and to come back and share it with me. This allowed him to open up and have less bottled up in him, because there is someone who could listen to him; he has less time to fight but more experiences/stories to tell. English is a problem to him but with the extra reading, he finds himself able to explain these stories in English and has a growing understanding of what he reads.

Service leader stands in front of a group of children

Thuso’s life battles taught me that in every bad situation, do not allow it to capture you but be open to new positivity. Today Thuso can recite a poem in English and he is less angry then before.  Most of all, he has less torn shirts. He was worried about others calling him names because he seemed to become soft and I shared with him; don’t worry about that, but worry about being a hero in your own life, the reward is big.

*The name of the learner has been changed to protect their identity.

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