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Robyn Mafanya comes home to start youth upliftment NGO

Local Hero nominee drives Nyara village project that helps youth with agricultural development, education, and technology

Robyn Mafanya started the Nyara Youth Development NGO to uplift the 5,000 villagers from her old home.
Robyn Mafanya started the Nyara Youth Development NGO to uplift the 5,000 villagers from her old home.
Image: SUPPLIED

Local Hero nominee Robyn Mafanya, 31, left her Cape Town life behind and transformed an old Eastern Cape family farm into the Nyara Youth Development non-profit programme.

The NPO was launched in March 2021 and assists five villages in the Nyara area and nearby Soto village to help the young with agricultural development, education and technology. 

Mafanya said: “We look to assist in all areas of upliftment with 5,000 villagers targeted in multiple programmes.” 

Mafanya, her parents, husband, and two children moved back to the Eastern Cape during lockdown in 2020 after the pandemic destabilised their lives.

Our property had been vandalised and stripped of everything from tiles to wiring, so my father came back before us and rebuilt the big old house

“Our business in Cape Town fell through so we decided to come back. Our property had been vandalised and stripped of everything from tiles to wiring, so my father came back before us and rebuilt the big old house.”

The family initially made the move hoping for a new start in farming. 

“I’ve always been involved in community development and dreamt of starting my own NGO. 

“When I saw the state of the Nyara villages I thought, why don’t we start new projects of our own?”

Mafanya has a master’s degree in development education and global learning from the University of London.

She registered as a non-profit, developed a business plan, and began building relationships with “ward counsellors, businesses, and community members”.  

The family transformed the crumbling building that used to be a general store run by her grandparents into the new youth development building.

The NYD website says they offer “programmes and activities designed to be a catalyst that helps the youth of Nyara villages reach their goals and fulfil their potential by stretching their mindsets to be aligned to 21st century-thinking”.

Their ages range from 12 to 35.

Education programmes on gender-based violence have helped women in their teens and early 20s with counselling and self-defence. 

The unemployment programme helps with the compilation of CVs, job applications and digital literacy.  

A major ongoing project is the construction of a rural community wireless network tower that will give Wi-Fi access to the whole community.

“Certain educational sites will be free while streaming will cost R30 a month for internet access.

“We are still putting the backbone together and are calling for donations for antennae in the villages.”

The centre will be officially launched on April 9 with a weekend-long hackathon — a digital event that brings together coders to solve a sociopolitical issue. 

“You don’t need to be studying coding to apply but you need to know how to program and use Dischord, a software program used to develop apps.”

We hope to create social change and uplift the youth by solving their community problems with a digital solution

Participants will get access to Dischord and develop an app to combat a problem statement and come up with solutions to combat youth unemployment in the Great Kei municipality. 

“We hope to create social change and uplift the youth by solving their community problems with a digital solution.” 

Sponsored by the Empire Foundation, cash prizes will be awarded to the winners and R30,000 distributed among all participants who will “all leave with something”.

Mafanya said she was surprised that the Local Hero nomination had come from her sister Jade Brown.

“It’s amazing. She is aware of all the work going on — that’s so sweet.”

DispatchLIVE


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