Setting A New Course
Fairlady|March 2018

Learning to be independent is especially difficult for kids who have spent their lives in care. SAYes Mentoring bridges that gap in a way that benefits both mentee and mentor.

Lucinda Dordley & Tiffany Donson

During a break from work and her studies, UKborn Michelle Potter volunteered as a soccer coach to kids living on the streets in Cape Town. Michelle had always been crazy about sport, and was interested in putting her hardwon Football Association (FA) Coaching Certificate to good use. The last thing she expected was for the experience to become an award-winning dissertation – or change her life. Yet it did both.

Michelle came to care deeply about the children she was coaching, but it was when a young man confided that he had no idea how to go about taking the next step in his life that she started to realise there was a bigger problem than the ones she was already seeing: the kids were in care, but when they turned 18 they were legally required to leave the children’s homes. And there was no support thereafter, and nowhere for them to go.

When you’ve lived in an institution for most of your life, you get used to decisions being made for you, which makes the transition into adulthood that much more difficult. The boy who spoke to Michelle didn’t know where to go or who to turn to. His birthday was coming up, and he felt that his only option would be to live on the streets. Sadly, it’s a view grounded in reality: statistics show that by 2020, 9020000 South Africans will be unemployed, and just over half that number will be young people aged between 18 and 25.

Michelle’s dissertation (in which she compared the challenges facing children in care in SA with those of kids in care in the UK) was so impressive that she received the Froebel Guild Award. Shortly after that, in 2008, she moved to Cape Town to co-found SAYes Mentoring, an NGO that focuses on supporting youth as they make the transition from care to independence. SAYes stands for South African Youth Education for Sustainability, and was co-founded with X-Files actress Gillian Anderson.

The NGO is part of a broader social movement – effective altruism – which applies reason and evidence to benefit others. The mentoring that SAYes offers is carefully structured and focused, way beyond the fuzzy, albeit well-intended, ‘just see what you can do to help’.

It recognises social currency as one of the most important, and yet overlooked, benefits of not growing up in an institution. For instance, SAYes partners with businesses and other non-profits to provide opportunities such as job-shadowing and internships for mentees.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM FAIRLADYView All

How to Survive the Feast-Or Famine Cycle

It’s empowering to have more than one income stream, but there is a downside: it’s easy to splurge when money is plentiful, but what about the lean months? Three self-starters share their tips for keeping an even keel through good and bad.

6 mins read
Fairlady
March/April 2022

Kaley's Comet

Kaley Cuoco was so beguiling as Penny on The Big Bang Theory that she soon became one of the highest paid actors in television. With HBO’s comedic thriller series The Flight Attendant, she entered exciting, slightly sinister new territory – but it proved her range as an actress and cemented her broad-based appeal.

7 mins read
Fairlady
March/April 2022

Let the Music Play

My dad died days before the global lockdown. While I was trapped within four walls, music and dancing gave me reason to smile again.

7 mins read
Fairlady
March/April 2022

How to Make Your Own Luck

Luck isn’t easy to measure or study, but those who have managed to do it discovered it’s not the work of fate – it’s a skill you can cultivate and improve. So, how do you go about it?

8 mins read
Fairlady
March/April 2022

Local Flavour

Stocking up your pantry? These artisanal foods are guaranteed to ignite the senses of home chefs everywhere. Meet the foodies behind two of South Africa’s tastiest brands.

7 mins read
Fairlady
March/April 2022

The Comfort of Ritual

Rituals imbue our lives with depth and meaning. And in times of uncertainty, they are even more important because they create a sense of grounding.

8 mins read
Fairlady
March/April 2022

Get Your Shine Back!

When the last of the summer heat is over, it’s important to take time to reverse any hair damage caused by sun and sea water.

5 mins read
Fairlady
March/April 2022

The Rise of the Personal Shopper

It’s not a new concept, but the number of people who make a living from sourcing goods on behalf of clients is on the rise. We talked to three personal shoppers to find out what it takes.

7 mins read
Fairlady
March/April 2022

Back to the Wild

Imagine camping in the Little Karoo… a billion stars above you, the ancient desert beneath, the insistent flapping of your canvas tent in the cold night air. Then banish all the rustic images this conjures up – because Dwyka Tented Lodge will confound all your expectations.

6 mins read
Fairlady
March/April 2022

A Good (Mo) Hair Day

"Beauty Mokgwamme had other dreams, but circumstances took her exactly where she was meant to be."

3 mins read
Fairlady
March/April 2022