Photo credits- https://www.guardiansofthenationaltreasure.org/
The Guardians of the national treasure is a charity organisation working in in Lavender Hill, Cape Town, South Africa. This noble organisation seeks to better the lives of the children living in this entirely impoverished and declining area, ensuring they are not overlooked or forgotten but aiding their present struggles and paving a way for a better, brighter future.
This charity was founded by CEO Ralph Bouwers. Bouwers had grown up in Lavender Hill himself, “a son of Lavender Hill”, experiencing the trials and challenges that come with living this gang-ridden area first hand.
After working and studying away from the Cape Flats Bouwers returned “because he could see the children sitting in the shadow of neglect with a bleak future”. It is this he wished to correct, investing in the lives of the children, the lives of the future generations as a way to pave the way to a brighter future.
The Guardians of the national treasure (or GNT) view themselves as the guardians, these are the individuals who volunteer for GNT on an informal basis. This title infers a responsibility on the people, the public to enact change. GNT has the support of the community. The national treasure over which they shield is then, in turn, the children. This metaphor illustrates the great importance and significance placed on the innocent youth.
Ralph describes the children as “gems” with talent that deserves to be invested in. He goes on to explain that it is this untapped potential in these children, this neglected talent which leads to a loss of hope and despair. The disenfranchisement eventually gives way or succumbs to the negative influence around them such as involvement in gangs, with drugs or alcohol.
GNT work alongside Lavender Hill sports and recreation foundation as well as In place of war. Ambassadors from ‘In place of war’, a NGO that works with many areas affected by conflict on a global scale, have remarked on is the complete lack of support and intervention on behalf of charities and state support which is unique about Lavender Hill’s situation.
Lavender Hill is seemingly abandoned or forgotten because of the extremity of the gang violence and gun violence which occurs here. It is seen as too dangerous to intervene or go into this community which has led to its neglect.
The schools in the area do not offer extracurricular activities after school or at the weekend, arguably when the children need it most to keep them off the streets. This is remedied by the work done by Ralph and GNT as they offer a range of activities in the fields of sports, recreation, the arts, culture and education.
GTN works as an upliftment and transformation organisation. They use sports, education and the arts as a way to mend the broken community and provide shelter or a space for youth to advance their skills. Creating this opportunity gives the children vital direction away from gang life.
Sport is used as a vehicle to empower, motivate and mend broken spirits. It engages these young minds. It also offers them relief from their day-to-day troubles, trials, and turmoil. Sport becomes an escape, a chance to have fun, be young, and be a child. This is imperative as children can be involved in gang activity from as young as 8-year-old because of influences in their environment. GNT gives the chance for these children to take their lives in a different direction, to break away from the pattern, and ultimately end the cycle of violence.
What first started with football games initiated by Mark Nicholson has now blossomed into numerous sporting teams which play competitively. The work that is done in this community is remarkable and incredibly influential. The change happening is visible. GNT now offer soccer, netball, soft ball, basketball as part of their sporting programmes and community support such as social groups and soup kitchens.
The strides this organisation has taken in this under privileged community which is victim to gang violence are awe-striking. Moreso when it is understood that the change enacted thus far has been achieved with a lack of facilities, specifically sporting, arts and culture outlets. GNT are currently working towards building a sports centre in the heart of Lavender Hill, this is an example of the progress yet to be achieved. If you have been inspired to do so it is possible to donate to GNT on their website: https://www.guardiansofthenationaltreasure.org/.
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