The Bishop Simeon Trust (BST), a UK based NGO working in partnership with local communities to transform the lives of vulnerable children in South Africa, is integral to the emergence of Changing the Story and has remained a core collaborator over the last five years.
Prior to Changing the Story, and as part of the Voicing Hidden Histories project, Prof. Paul Cooke and Daniela Wegrostek from University of Leeds partnered with the Bishop Simeon Trust and members of Themba Interactive to work with young people that are supported by various Community-Based Organisations in South Africa called ‘Safe Parks’, which provide access to education and emotional support, health services, counselling, and food. Through this initial partnership the Paul, Daniela and BST sought to help the young people create stories and films that generated awareness about specific issues in their communities as a means of providing a tool for advocacy, hoping to empower the youths to promote change in their own communities. Building on the work on the Voicing Hidden Histories project and collaboration with BST, Changing the Story was devised with the intention of being the first large-scale comparative study of CSO practice across a range of post-conflict societies, confronting the challenge of building strong institutions for the delivery of social justice for young people.
Following the emergence of Changing the Story, as it is now known, the project has continued to work closely with the Bishop Simeon Trust to explore innovative means of using the creative arts to support children and young people to develop their leadership skills and claim their voice across three different research projects funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council – Global Challenges Research Fund.
In 2019, the ‘Supporting Vulnerable Children to become Youth Leaders in South Africa’ project, a Changing the Story, Bishop Simeon Trust and the National Association of Child Care Workers (NACCW) collaboration, developed an arts-based leadership programme to train approximately 240 children and young people across 8 Isibindi Safe Parks supported by BST to become ‘youth leaders’. This group then worked with a further 150 children and young people in their particular Safe Park (a total of approximately 1200 children and young people) to use film and other arts-based methods to develop advocacy campaigns that raised awareness of a series of issue that directly affected their lives. The project supported a a policy event that created a dialogue with local, regional and national stakeholders, as well as key INGOs operating in South Africa (including the Departments of Social Development, Basic Education, Health and UNICEF South Africa, Hope and Homes for Children, along with Departmental Heads and Councillors within Ekurhuleni Municipality and Gauteng Provincial Government), both to raise awareness of the Isibindi Safe Park model and to ensure that our work is embedded in, and aligned with, the aims of these key agencies in the wider national support infrastructure.
In 2020, following the COVID-19 pandemic, Changing the Story and the Bishop Simeon Trust collaborated again on a rapid redesign and pilot of a remote youth leadership programme that moved between online and face-to-face delivery, with a view to extending the model to a broader group of young people and communities.
The project aimed to
1) explore the value of participatory media to empower young people to shape the terms of debate in their community’s responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.
2) capture the experience of life during COVID-19 for some of the world’s most vulnerable young people
3) support community resilience by exploring how participatory methods can be used to co-produce new, sustainable, online networks that will both help young people to cope as the pandemic reaches its zenith and will support community recovery as it emerges from the lockdown and to prepare for further lockdowns
4) inform regional and national childcare policy and practice.
In addition to developing and implementing an online version of the leadership programme and further enhancing the digital filmmaking skills of the young people involved, the project will curate an exhibition drawing on the digital materials to be produced by the project. This will provide a unique community archive recording the local impact of COVID-19 and the materials will be stored on the community archiving resource Yarn (http://yarncommunity.com/), funded by a previous AHRC project. Two peer-reviewed research articles will also be written by the team. One will be focussed on the textual analysis of the audio-visual material produced, and one will be focussed on the lessons to be learnt from the project on how this work can support young people as agents of community resilience.
In 2021, Changing the Story and the Bishop Simeon Trust were awarded further funding for a new research project. ‘Developing a Youth-Leadership Programme for Deaf Children in, and beyond, South Africa.’
The project, a partnership between CTS, BST, Hope and Homes for Children (HHC), DeafKidz International (DKI), and Deaf SA, aims to
1) Foster the integration of deaf children and develop their self-advocacy skills through the creation of an arts-based leadership programme.
2) Support relevant agencies to develop more inclusive practices. Working in partnership with DKI and Deaf SA, the project will support BST and HHC to build organisational capacity. The project will provide them with new skills, and new approaches to programme design, helping them to integrate and support deaf children more effectively across their programmes.
3) Support youth-led South-South knowledge exchange to inform child-welfare and protection policy nationally and internationally.
For more information, visit www.bstrust.org/our-partners/centre-for-world-cinemas-and-digital-cultures and http://yarncommunity.com/stories/