Last Friday night was an significant moment for the South Africa-Washington International Program, marking not only the graduation of the 2016 team and their progression into our now 142 member alumni community, but the culmination of ten years of supporting the growth and development of diverse teams of emerging leaders. We are incredibly proud of this team and we wish them well as they join the ranks of SAWIP alumni who are working for a more prosperous and just South African future.
The team have been through a gruelling seven month programme that has called on them to challenge their capabilities and identities, to work to improve their skills and to pursue the best versions of themselves in order to become ethical servant leaders committed to building and entrenching democracy in South Africa and be partners in the development of South Africa.
The program commenced with the recruitment and selection of the team in April, drawing a diverse cohort from the Universities of Cape Town, Pretoria, Stellenbosch and the Western Cape. The team commenced with a curriculum that focused on the pressing challenges facing South Africa and was designed to equip them with necessary skills to lead in an uncertain environment and pursue opportunities for growth and development in South Africa.
The team departed in June for Washington, DC where they were given the opportunity to participate in an international professional exposure program, as well as continue their leadership skills and cultural literacy development. Each student also gained work skills and exposure in an organization aligned with their career or community service goals. The team was exposed to an intriguing and cosmopolitan city and were generously hosted by American families, themselves hungry to learn about South Africa and the continent and eager to support our team’s journey.
Having gained global insights through engagement with thought-leaders in the political, corporate and non-profit sectors, the team returned with an extraordinary passion for their home country with new understandings about the people of the world. They immediately commenced with the community engagement component of the program, with the Western Cape team working with youth leaders in schools in Manenberg and the University of Pretoria team working in Olievenhoutbosch. A core tenet of SAWIP is community engagement and is ingrained into every aspect of the program.
This year has been an exciting one, with many challenges but even more opportunities for continuing the support and development of our young leaders. We thank everyone who has contributed to the organisation and the team this year: our participating universities, our donors and partners, our facilitators, our host families, friends, boards and alumni. This program is a partnership and it would not be possible without all the assistance we receive.
While the journey for this team may be over, we welcome them into the family of SAWIP Alumni and broader SAWIP community, while we continue to support and develop South Africa’s emerging leaders and work for a thriving South Africa.