The Dutch group is formed by 5 streetwise youngsters with experience of living on the streets and/or receiving residential care. They are accompanied by 6 volunteers, experienced in volunteering at Don Bosco street children projects worldwide. Manzini Youth Care (MYC) facilitates residential care for street children in Manzini, the second biggest city of the Kingdom of Swaziland. Youngsters who are about to turn 18 and need to leave MYC and youngsters who already left MYC take part in the workshops.
Self-dependence is the theme of the exchange. Residential care in the Netherlands is quite well-organized and intense for minors. Once turned 18, youngsters leave the care system and need to take care of themselves. The level of support decreases rapidly. On the one hand this gives a sense of freedom, but at the same time it is a giant leap in sense of responsibility. For many youngsters this step is too big, and after some years they end up having financial debts and other problems. In Manzini, youngsters experience similar difficulties. Leaving MYC is a big step and it is a challenge for MYC to provide transition care. During the workshops, the youngsters discussed their ideas about self-dependence. What is self-dependence? What did or do they need to build up an independent life, a life in which they can take care of themselves? When do they wish help from others, but also, when do they not want help?
The end-product of the exchange will be a poster with recommendations for care organizations helping youngsters with their transition to adult life. During the workshops the youngsters exchanged experiences about their daily life in residential care and their needs for independence. A lot of understanding was experienced between the Dutch and the Swazi youngsters. They found also some differences in their needs; for example, the two societies giving them different examples of what a self-dependent life is. But they found more commonalities: a self-dependent life starts with basic needs like a small amount of money to organize their lives, a house and others means to stay healthy. Most important seems to be that they can make their own choices and take responsibility for it. If this means they need help, it is a sign of self-dependence if they do ask for it.
During informal meetings, like dinner or a sports event, the youngsters found understanding on different levels. They found out that a streetwise life in the Netherlands and Swaziland doesn’t differ as much as expected and the youngsters were able to share their stories and relate to each other. A boy who had been on drugs for years went to rehab and it is now 1.5 years that he has been “clean”. One of the Dutch participants heard this story and it inspired him in his own process of refusing to use drugs. Many more stories were shared and they all inspired in their own way.