It’s a hard landing without soft-skills


“I’ve never used an ATM.”

Two boys, orphan refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo, grew up in a Child and Youth Care Centre (CYCC) in Pretoria. Here they were safe.

Here they had regular, healthy meals and could attend school – theirs was a childhood with significantly more care, provision and hope than many other children in South Africa face.

The boys spent their childhoods in the CYCC until age 18 when they had to leave the facility and make a life for themselves in the real world. Fortunately a generous supporter of the CYCC offered the boys the opportunity to work in his restaurant as waiters in order to assist them with the transition into independent living.

The boys did well, but later confessed that it was challenging for them being out on their own, having to face all the complexities of being an independent adult. Growing up in an institution satisfied their basic needs allowing them to survive and acquire basic life-skills. Unfortunately, due to the nature of institutionalised care these young men missed out on many learning opportunities that we so easily take for granted.

Working long hours at the restaurant the young men saved their money and decided to open a bank account for the first time in their lives. When they were then faced with the task of withdrawing some of their hard-earned cash, the men had to confess that they have never used an ATM before…

Children are taught many of life’s soft-skills through everyday experiences that they have with their parents, friends, teachers and other significant adults in their lives. These are the skills that help us to get through our daily tasks and activities, and allow us to engage with one another with sensitivity and compassion. When children do not have proper adult role-models they lack this basic knowledge of how to get through from day-to-day completing “normal” daily activities.

Teaching a child any skill, from how to politely answer a phone to good dental health, from how to save and budget prudently to how to use an ATM, enables him or her to be better equipped to succeed in life.

So let’s take the time to invest in a child, and in so doing, invest in our own future.

Writtern by Irene Schoeman, Regional Coordinator – Bright Stars Gauteng

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