Usiko Stellenbosch grew out of the Usiko Trust whose founding members are the criminologist Dr Don Pinnock, Prof Tony Naidoo, Head of Psychology at Stellenbosch University, Andrew Muir of the Wilderness Leadership School, Marion Goodman of Educo, and Philip van Zyl. They came together with community members in Jamestown, who were deeply concerned about issues facing the local youth that left them vulnerable to school drop-out, teen pregnancy, substance abuse, negative social and mental health issues and crime. Through a community forum involving the school principals, teachers, pastors, clinic staff and community leaders, Prof Naidoo and his students were given the mandate to provide psychological services at the schools and the Don & Pat Bilton Primary Health Clinic but were also challenged to “do something for our youth!”
Usiko Stellenbosch registered in its own right in 2011 and is led and run by original members of the forum – Usiko’s current Executive Director, Arnold Okkers, Chairperson Vernon Adams, and Vice-Chair Sam Juan Pietersen. They are all from the same communities as beneficiaries and have intimate knowledge and experience of the issues and challenges. As such, Usiko is providing a bottom-up, holistic solution, with academic rigour and tested methods to long-term sustainable change in the lives of at-risk youth.
Beneficiaries: Usiko’s work targets children of impoverished farm workers and adolescents from townships, gang communities and remote rural settlements and young offenders referred by the court system. They are generally living lives of poverty, hunger, trauma, over-crowded homes and attending under-resourced schools. The boys and girls are on the brink of expulsion or drop-out from school or are at-risk of getting into lives of crime.