Thursday, July 17, 2008

Ode to a Teen

Their collective name can incite terror in many, stirring up memories of their own experience, rapidly bringing to the surface repressed feelings, frustrations and uncontrollable hormones: Teenagers!
This week's column however is not a moan and groan session about what they do (or in most cases – don't do) but rather an appreciation of one specific teen who opened up my eyes to the possibilities within these unique and interesting tribe of human beings and will hopefully do the same for you.
iKhaya LikaBaba (a transition home for orphaned and abandoned babies) recently had the privilege of getting to know a grade 11 high school student from Empangeni High (and the cheerleaders in the background chorus 'Go Empangeni High!') as she arrived at 7.30am and left at 4pm every day to volunteer at our organisation. Her input included looking after babies, stock taking, phoning, filing and general administration. She gave of her time and made a significant impact by lifting some of the workload off our already tired and weary shoulders. What was especially noteworthy was that every day during the holidays, as I drove around doing errands, I saw teenagers hanging around seemingly doing very little.
Here is the moment of truth: not only did she impact our organisation but she now has a unique work experience to add to her CV. Her actions indicate that she cares about others and that she is prepared to go the extra mile, sometimes at personal cost. If I were considering candidates for employment, she would definitely pique my interest and raise her profile above the rest of the crowd.
The many non profit organisations in this area make for wonderful opportunities for teens to get involved, meet new people, broaden their horizon, make a difference in the lives of others and at the same time building a little bit of history and credibility (of course, a nicely written reference always goes down well). We may not have all the facilities available to entertain our teenagers that they would like, but maybe if we could help them look beyond their own needs and see the needs of others, we could raise a generation that grow up to be truly remarkable individuals.

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