“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
“Once upon a time two friends had a dream. They dreamed about building a bridge of opportunity from one community to another. Long before this dream, before their paths crossed in friendship, each walked their own road with its unique obstacles. There was no bridge of opportunity built for them. But each had a community of cheerleaders who walked with them for parts of their journey. Some walked along for a short distance, others lingered longer. But all left something of value behind: a word of encouragement, wise instruction, a helping hand, a promise to connect them, an example to strive for. The two friends looked back with gratitude and looked ahead with excitement. They never knew bridgebuilding could be so rewarding.”
This is the story of IseeU. But only the beginning of our story. Not the end of our story. Not the full story. This blog, the last in our Boundaries series, will deal with a chapter in our story which we cautiously decided to share with you. Cautiously, because it is never easy to share stories of disappointment – it’s the happy story that usually gets the ‘Likes”. But we decided that transparency trumps “Likes” so we invite you to see what lies behind our series on Boundaries.
2019 was going to be a significant year for us – our first group of carefully selected mentees matriculated, and we were looking forward to connecting them to carefully selected opportunities. They were taking tentative steps across the bridge we had all worked so hard to build over the past few years. All five grade 12 mentees passed their Matric exams. One had a confirmed teaching learnership in place; one planned to work in order to save up for further studies; two were awaiting confirmation of their plans; and the last young lady who wrote her exams under extremely challenging circumstances, did very well and was on track to do a paralegal learnership.
IseeU and the mentees’ hard work was paying off and we were feeling hopeful and expectant. Finally, we were seeing the fruits of our labour. Finally, our mentees’ inherent potential was being recognised by others, and they were poised to access appropriate opportunities. Our partners and friends joined in our excitement. Offers to assist our teacher-in-the-making with transport and other challenges, were pouring in. We were living our dream – connecting communities and building bridges!
A telephone call on a sunny January morning derailed our dream. The challenge of geographic location was proving to be insurmountable for the student teacher. Often the distance between Cape Flats communities and meaningful opportunities, together with a broken public transport system, make it near impossible for members of these communities to access further education, or participate on an equal footing in the job market. There were other factors that led to the disruption of our collective dream, but our mentee’s exit found expression in this particular challenge.
To say that we were disappointed would be a gross understatement. We were furious! We raged at the deep scars left by a political system that saw it fit to forcibly remove entire communities and dump them in inaccessible locations with an inadequate transport network – still today we experience the ripple effect of this violation of human rights. We riled against an education system that dooms our mentees, and many like them, to an ever-narrowing pool of options. We ranted at the short sightedness of decisions based on difficulty. We raged. We ranted. We riled. Then we cried – our dream had died. But had our dream really died?
Out of our tears appeared ideas. What could we do differently, what could we do better? Our ideas led to opportunities. To re-evaluate. To return to basics. To re-learn. To re-invent and re-imagine. It led to renewed respect – for our work, the people we work with and for, the communities we work in, our mentees, ourselves, the vision which has been entrusted to us. It led us to think clearly about our responsibilities in contradistinction to that of our mentees. That, in turn led us to carefully consider our boundaries.
Having dealt with the loss of one dream, we look back and we see resilience and the re-birth of hope…for our mentees and for the effectiveness of the mentoring programme. We see the return of a settled peace, knowing that we do what we can, the rest is up to the individual. We see the need to maintain healthy boundaries. So here we are, sharing what we’ve learnt about boundaries and the resurrection of our dream. Let’s continue to learn together, and together, let’s dare to dream!