The Writing Club at Vredelus House
In July, interns from Cape Chameleon, the Journalism project in South Africa, started an outreach programme in partnership with a detention centre for girls, Vredelus House. Based in Elsie’s River, Vredelus House is a secure care centre for girls experiencing behavioural or domestic problems and a detention centre for female offenders awaiting trial. The Writing Club programme is an initiative of Voices of the World, an outreach aspect of Projects Abroad Journalism placements. The programme sees girls aged 13-18 acquire essential writing and life skills through a range of activities and weekly workshops.
Every Thursday, the Cape Chameleon interns are transported to the facility, where they present a variety of fun journalism-related workshops. With the assistance of a supervisor and the interns, the girls at Vredelus explore the role of a journalist and learn the art of crafting a news story, while also participating in creative writing activities. Because English is not many of the girls’ first language, creative writing activities like journal entries, poetry or just writing from the heart improves their command of English. The culmination of the workshops will be the production of an in-house newsletter. Not only will the workshops allow the girls to produce their own content, but they will also equip the girls with valuable skills that they can use in their future careers.
The opportunity for cultural exchange between the girls and volunteers also forms a significant part of the club. The girls are always excited to meet volunteers from different parts of the world and learn about different cultures; the volunteers are equally excited to get to know the girls. “Speaking freely with the girls at Vredelus is great,” says French volunteer Tina Meunier, during one of the first workshops. Last week, the girls outlined the content of the newsletter; Jasmine, a member of the club, is excited about profiling a care worker who she admires, while Sasha-Lee wants to write about the importance of education at the facility. “The newsletter is supposed to give these girls an outlet and an opportunity to share their thoughts,” says Mallory Haag, a volunteer from the US.
Preparation for the newsletter is still in its infancy, but the girls are keen to start the writing process. “After spending time with the girls, I have come to realise that they are intelligent and fun, and have a thirst for knowledge. It has been one of my favourite and most memorable experiences in South Africa,” says UK volunteer, Abbiramy Anpalagan.
Vredelus is also supported by our Human Rights Office , where volunteers provide life skills workshops for the girls as part of the Social Justice programme.