We’re pleased to share the news that our South African partner Usiko have been recognised at the Youth Excellence Awards for Facilitating Youth Transitions and Change. They were thrilled to receive a Silver award from Impumelelo and the Western Cape Government’s Department of Social Development in recognition of their work.

Usiko work with youth at risk and young people in conflict with the law. One of the main ways they do this is by taking them through wilderness and rites of passage programmes, giving them both the confidence and the skills to become leaders in their communities. Young people in disadvantaged areas – damaged by decades of apartheid – join gangs in order to build allies, purpose and context for themselves in the absence of strong family bonds. The Western Cape, where Usiko is based, has some of the most traumatised communities and therefore the highest number of gang members in the country.

The local youth remain at risk in these circumstances and Usiko supports them in building a sustainable future for themselves and for future generations of young people.

Through wilderness experiences, mentor support and a series of school programmes, Usiko helps young people create new stories about their lives. Stories with different outcomes. In partnership with relevant state agencies, civil society networks and local and international funders, Usiko’s work diverts young people in conflict with the law from a punitive to a rehabilitative and restorative justice system and creates community and school-based prevention programmes for adolescent boys and girls to cope with challenges.


Over 14 years, Usiko has helped 1,000 young people successfully break out of a cycle of crime and poverty by employing life-skills sessions, sports therapy, art therapy, excursions, wilderness courses, hikes, mentoring.

Arnold Okkers, Programme Manager said “this award comes at a great time, as an assurance of the work we do. The successes that we have reached are finally being recognised locally. After 14 years since its’ establishment, it is good to know that we are recognised and on par with the more corporate NGO’s in the Western Cape in the Youth Development Sector.”

Screen Shot 2015-03-31 at 10.38.35

Claire Jacobs, M&E Officer said “we would like to thank all staff, board, mentors, volunteers past and present, The Gaia Foundation, Comic Relief, our Advisory Committee, founders, all our training partners (Remgro, Young People@work, Tina Thiart and Associates, Sustainability Development Network, The Organisational Puzzle, Rudy Oosterwyk), and our mentees who have made this programme worth every mile, late night, and grey hair- they have been our greatest source of joy and motivation to keep going despite the challenges.”