Normal: the usual, average, or typical state or condition.
While the definition of normal may be the same all over the world, the usual or typical state or condition varies widely.
We mentor boys and young men who are growing up in an environment which many of our readers may not consider normal.
When Jim tells some of the boys that, in Canada, he does not personally know anyone who has been robbed, stabbed, raped, charged with a serious crime, or been in prison, they are surprised.
During a discussion with a 21 year-old college student (Shane) regarding male role models and the challenge of growing up in a township, Jim mentioned that he had never seen a stab wound prior to visiting South Africa. The youth’s eyebrows raised and he responded “Jim, how can that be?”
“If you have a good brain and the world you grow up in (chaos of poverty, bad school) demands that you shut it down, you are bound to suffer.” Why Smart People Hurt – Eric Maisel
Some people continue to ask whether what we do makes a difference. The irony is that it would be very difficult to not make a difference.
So many young people are desperately seeking guidance and direction in life. Many are lost, like a rudderless boat at sea.
On a daily basis we see teenage boys come alive, and feel hopeful for the first time in a long while. They start believing in themselves again. Working with disadvantaged township youth has been our most rewarding experience in life.
Jim recently took 4 teenage boys to visit their 4 teenage friends who are in custody at a juvenile correctional centre awaiting trial on very serious charges.
One of the 4 youth in custody for 16 months while awaiting trial told Jim “You see us laugh when you visit, but it is tough in here. It’s dangerous, with 30-35 guys per cell, and not a place the other guys want to be.”
None of the 8 boys, including the 4 in custody, believe crime is acceptable. But many grow up in environments where fighting, bullying, drug use, being robbed, dysfunctional homes (alcoholism, violence), and barely passing (or failing) at school has a semblance of ‘normal’. Not right, but normal.
Upon exiting the correctional centre, Jim and the boys had a healthy discussion about ‘normal’. Their normal, Jim’s normal, and the normal facing their friends in custody. No one was flippant or disinterested. The mood was sombre.
If we ignore such youth, it will likely be at our peril.
The Hands & Heart carpentry & welding program commences Monday, January 16th, and the 24 guys are very excited to start.
The 1 day per week carpentry program for boys who struggle to read begins Friday, February 3rd and Jim has selected the initial 10 youth.
The college and university students previously profiled on our blog all continue to do well, academically and otherwise.
Final results for all grade 12 students in South Africa were released 5 days ago. Many of the original members of our Bulele mentorship groups completed grade 12 in 2016, and all did well. Most did very well and will attend universities in Cape Town.
Schools reopen Wednesday, January 11th for the start of the 2017 academic year.
“All the best in 2017 and thanks for your continued support.” Janet & Jim