We use radio to amplify youth voices across Africa, giving them the skills and tools to speak about their lives
My name is Thabo Samuel Botopela but I call myself Thabo B when I am on air.
I was born in the township of Lebowakgomo in Limpopo province, and what I can say about myself is that I love radio. That is what I have been doing for the past eight years at our local community station GLFM. I started out as a reporter then moved into production and worked my way up until I became station manager in 2010. And in June 2013 I became a CRF trainer!
When I was young, my main inspiration was YFM (first youth radio in South Africa). The first time I listened to it I thought, this is what I want to do.
I come from a background that was tough, where love wasn’t always expressed and I know some of the youth don’t get the love and support they deserve. That results in them lacking confidence in what they want to do and achieve. That is the reason why most of kids end up abandoning their dreams. It all comes down to the love and support at home. So that is why I want to play my role in making sure the YRN youth are motivated and supported in what they do. I am a dreamer and one of my dreams is to see young black people be positive and succeed in whatever field they choose. Being a CRF trainer has given me the opportunity to have that impact.
How did you get involved with CRF?
It started back in 2011. UNICEF and CRF came to see us and they introduced the project. I liked it and said: “let’s work together”. Ever since, we have had a good relationship.
What do you think makes our training program effective and unique?
I think the nice thing about the training is that it is not too formal. Also, it’s not like we tell the youth “I am the leader and you follow me”. We are all sharing and that makes it easy. Involving trainers like me, with a radio background, might also make things easier. The youth have listened to us on air before, so when we explain certain formats, it is easier for them to relate, because they hear us use these tools on air.
What has been the highlight of your service?
The moment that really stands out for me is when I was recruited as a trainer for the first time because it is something that I have always wanted. I was like “ I can do that”. I also love travelling and the first training I did, in Moutse community radio, really took me out of my comfort zone. I met new people, spoke languages I am not used to speaking. It was a new experience for me, doing the training myself and leading some of the sessions. Now, being a regional trainer is very exciting because it is something I have always wanted to do, working with youth and mentoring them.
What impact does CRF have on the community?
Judging from the response of the listeners, they are starting to get aware of certain issues. So I think it brings social cohesion around social issues that really need attention. My belief is that it is not the government that is going to help us deal with our situation but ourselves. So it’s really important to bring the community together, to mobilize people.
The YRN is a great opportunity for young people. An opportunity we were never given at their age. The youth coming now have the opportunity to express themselves, to expose their knowledge and intelligence. So this is a great initiative that needs to grow for many, many years.
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