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“The program improved my self-esteem and changed the course of my future”

After graduating from the Youth@Work program, Geraldine’s story is truly impressive. Her personal and professional growth serves as a good example of what the program, run by the Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation, can do to young people’s lives.

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Nineteen-year-old Geraldine is one the first young women to graduate from the Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation’s Youth@Work program, made possible by funding from the H&M Foundation. The program focuses on giving marginalized young people educational and work experience to increase their opportunities for employment.

“I used to have little self-esteem”

“When I enrolled in the program I had little self-esteem, I was reluctant to voice my opinion, and even more afraid to speak in front of a crowd. Nine months later I delivered an address at the Youth@Work graduation to the roaring applause of my fellow classmates,” Geraldine says.

Youth@Work includes coaching and a three-month internship. “The program helped me to identify my career goals and it ignited a passion for social work which was made even stronger during my internship with the YMCA,” says Geraldine.

“For me, interning at the YMCA was an enriching experience, especially for the incredibly valuable networking opportunity it provided.”

— Geraldine

Geraldine is now pursuing her dream to become a community social worker and needs to earn a degree in social work. She explains: “To get to this point I have enrolled in a bridging course that will open the door to further study at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology next year. The classes take place every Saturday morning, and here I learn the ins and outs of what it takes to become a social auxiliary worker. As my initial test marks prove – an 80% grade for Welfare – I think I have got off to a fantastic start.”

Running her own business

However, getting a degree in South Africa isn’t cheap. “Along with most young South Africans, I have found that funding my studies is a constant struggle,” she says. “However, I have risen to the challenge by sustaining my own small business selling dishcloths. With the help of my parents, who provided half of the funds needed to buy supplies, I’m able to buy bulk dishcloths at wholesale prices and resell them at a marked-up price. This has allowed me to pay off 6 months of my studies!”