The visitors were introduced to the different initiatives of the youth organisation that reach more than 9 000 young people every year with a holistic approach to promote healthy living; to assist parents and families; to encourage excellence through leadership and to empower young entrepreneurs to create jobs. Salesian Life Choices director Sofia Neves explained her organisation's belief in choices, not charity. “We believe that once off interventions are not enough to transform a young person’s life. We partner with vulnerable youth in the Cape Flats on a journey of growth and development, delivering lasting change in the lives we touch.”
During a question and answer session a group of Leaders' Quest participants were given the opportunity to get to know Charlize, Trevor and their guests – and they weren’t disappointed. Charlize gave learners career advice before she turned to more serious topics.
South Africans are a resilient people, she said. “That is an advantage we should use. I’m proud of that. As soon as I moved to America, I realised an advantage I had. I have a thick skin and I can bounce back.” She learnt that not having equal opportunities don't have to limit your success. “The dream of what you want to achieve is within you and you have to go after it. Dream it, wake up and go after it. And be grateful for the people that help you along the way.”
Charlize said she felt proud to be able to invest in South African youth. “My love for the people of this country is immense. I don’t see any reason why the people of South Africa should be suffering unnecessarily in the way that they are, especially when it comes to the AIDS epidemic.” People shouldn’t be dying of a disease that is preventable, Charlize insisted. “I’ll do whatever I can to help, especially with teenagers like you, because you’re the ones that are going to change this country. Not just stopping this epidemic – because I do believe AIDS can be ended – but you’re the new leaders of this country, you’re the ones that are going to change everything on every level. I’m honoured to be part of that.”
Charlize acknowledged the struggles of young people growing up surrounded by poverty and violence. "Your lives aren’t easy. Our circumstances may differ, but as South Africans, we know where the struggle is. My own struggle made me aware of the struggles we all face. Own your own truth. I used that in a way to drive myself, to push myself. That was my engine."
Trevor added to Charlize’s powerful message when responding to a question about his confidence on stage. “I genuinely don’t have the confidence you think I have. What I do have is confidence in my work ethic. When I get onto the stage I’m terrified and all I can do is rely on the work I’ve put into myself before I got onto the stage. That is when work pays off.”
His message to South African youth was to work as hard as they can. “You may not be the best at a thing or the most talented, but what you can do is work the hardest. So when you’re in your coding class you can just work harder, spend more time on problems, read more. What you achieve is the reward for the work you put in.”
Trevor also spoke about how South Africans don’t value themselves enough. “When I started travelling, I learnt South Africans, for the most part, are part of a nation that has grown up with a low self-esteem. We’ve been told for a long time that we cannot do and achieve certain things and we sometimes revel in that too much. What we need to do is value ourselves and what we have. We have to be in a place where we don’t wait for someone from the outside to tell us what is good, we have to make it good ourselves.”
Being proud of your own achievements is how you start transforming yourself, Trevor said. The success he achieved in his own community inspired him to embrace bigger challenges. “Because it starts from there – at home. People often think they have to leave the township to become successful. I say why not bring the success to the township? Start drawing from the inside. Take what you have, find the value in it, encourage other South Africans to see the value in it as well. If we keep on doing that, we can create in a microcosm of something amazing that can change the world.”
Before Charlize and her guests left, she said what she loves about Salesian Life Choices is that young people have a space to talk about things and be themselves. “Take advantage of what you have here. Trevor and I have been saying to each other ‘I wish I had this when we were in school’.”
Charlize Theron and Trevor Noah admire photographs taken by Cape Town youth supported by Salesian Life Choices at the NPO's office in Landsdowne.