My name is Christopher Tarentaal and I am from the community of Calitzdorp. I am also an ambassador for IJR.

There are a lot of social issues in my community, like alcohol and drug misuse, GBV, racism, economic inequality, etc.

One of the things that disturb my soul is that our rural community is always left behind and our youth suffer the greatest consequences of the unemployment rate and lack of opportunity. As young adults we also face the aftermath of the apartheid system that placed us in a disadvantage position. This led to several crimes and social issues like, if we don’t have we will want to steal or break in just to have and to survive. Talking about survival and rural communities, people of colour live in a constant survival mode. We don’t have wealth or land to have a constant flow of income. In Calitzdorp the facilities are either out of order or it is under construction. We don’t even have an internet café to use the internet to our advantage and all of this issues fuel the issue of mental health problems. We, also, have a high rate of a lack of father and mother figures, and healthy families where we can have open relationships to talk about anything in life.

I am working in my community to better it through workshops together with IJR. We participate in sustainable dialogues on issue of racism, gender, youth identity etc. we also active in our community by offering our time and services like dance classes, organising fun days and awareness events. I am also in collaboration with the local soccer club in our community. During the Covid-19 pandemic our community was desperate for food and there were soup kitchens, but it was not enough to feed everyone. Even during the food relief food parcels, corruption took place in the form of distributing food parcels to households with income. It was depressing times for our community.

With the food garden pilot project, we to fill the gap of hunger where we grow fresh food and feed ourselves and our families in the name of food security.

We recently attended a conference called Social Change model: inter-provincial ambassador conference where we had dialogues about various topics. The one that stood out for me was on mental health that encouraged us as community workers to look after ourselves. Even though you love your community always make sure you look after your well-being first. One of the facilitator’s said, you can’t pour from an empty cup. In every aspect of your being you are supposed to be healthy: physical, spiritual, emotional, and mentally.

With all the topics we dialogued about we want to see that people in our community will start to talk about it and brave conversations about it. The conversations that we don’t want to talk about is the conversation that hold back our communities and the more we run and hide from it the more the trauma we keep alive, and the consequences will flourish in our communities. We need to start the difficult conversations and people will start to think out it.

The tools that IJR help us with is the very same tools that will effect change and dismantle unequal systems that were put in to place to disadvantage a certain group of people, especially the coloured and the black people. It is helping us in our personal lives also in the work that we do in our communities. It is essential that we are informed and aware of all social problems and social solutions. Our aims are not just to identity problems, it is also to work with what we have and come up with sustainable solutions.

Christopher Tarentaal, IJR ambassador