Most people think one has to have a lot of money to start making a difference in the lives of others or be a certain age. But Neftaly Malatjie is living proof that we can all make a difference regardless of our age and social status. He’s a social entrepreneur who helps others better their own lives by offering training in life skills and entrepreneurship. He founded the original Diepsloot Youth Project as a drama group with his own money in 2005 at the age of 14 which has since evolved to become the Southern Africa Youth Project. With hard work, dedication and a great team behind him, he has built a solid organisation that has provided a wide range of services to 6 000 youths in South Africa and other Southern African countries. While the organisation has achieved a lot, he has his sights on bigger things and recently moved to the head office at Riversands Incubation Hub. We spoke to him to find out more about the organisation and future plans.
What does your organisation do?
Southern Africa Youth Project is a regional youth development organisation that strives to change the way the youth thinks about themselves by providing a wide range of services that enable communities to be self-reliant and developmental in their approach. We have a programme called “Poverty2Job” that is made up of:
- Youth Development and Community Development;
- Skills Development and Training; and
- Job Placement and Entrepreneurship.
Can you tell me more about your background, for example where you studied and worked before starting the company?
I was born in Tzaneen, Limpopo before relocating to Gauteng, Diepsloot and this is where I grew up, attended school and after matric, I went to college and then formalised the organisation.
Why did you take the entrepreneurial route?
I have a passion for community development and I am an entrepreneur at heart. Like other many other people, I grew up in a community with harsh living conditions and a lack of opportunities – instead of being despondent, I saw the need to start a youth development organisation in order to change the lives of young people in the townships of Diepsloot and Daveyton.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced as an entrepreneur and how have you overcome them?
The biggest challenge was getting funding to implement our activities. Many people thought my idea wouldn’t work more especially because I didn’t even have money to provide the group with lunch as well as finance transport and costumes in the early days. But I didn’t give up – my passion for community development kept me focused and I used all the criticism as motivation to work towards my goal.
There are many youth centres out there, what sets your organisation apart?
We offer long-term solutions to address socio-economic issues. Our training helps equip young people with skills that are applicable in the working world. This then helps them create sustainability through employment. It’s unlike giving them food parcels which can be finished within a week and results in them facing the same problem.
Why did you decide to move to Riversands Incubation Hub?
The reason we moved into the Hub is because we hope to have a better chance of partnering with other companies and it is located not far from Diepsloot, which is where one of our branches is based.
What kind of impact do you hope moving into Riversands will have on your company?
We hope our organisation will get exposure and grow considering the number of other companies which are now potential partners and investors.
Going forward, what are you hoping to achieve as an organisation?
We’re hoping that we’ll be able to cater to people in other countries and change the lives of more young people.
Is there anything else that you would like to add?
Southern Africa Youth Project would like to urge every company to invest a little towards changing the life of just one child either through a bursary or any means of help because the youth is the future of our country.