Keep Them Safe Stage 3, part 2 –The journey continues

KTS kids cleaning up Jonkershoek
KTS kids cleaning up Jonkershoek


kids not only had to be convinced to come. They also had to be convinced to stay.

And so, even though they adapted and improvised on the fly,  PITCH teams stuck to the broad outline of the programme because it was designed with this purpose in mind. Kids were motivated by a go cart rally, an arts project, a performing arts competition and a sports day.All these were carefully timed and the weekly programme specifically shaped to keep building the dramatic tension that would keep everyone interested until the very end…

The Perfect PITCH  programme was its own perfect pitch. Once kids got caught up in the excitement, there was no falling back.

This article gives a broad overview of the entire 4 week programme as the central 3 stages of the journey for the kids in the Keep Them Safe holiday project.  These stages are:

Stage 2: Preparing for the Journey

Stage 3: The Journey itself

Stage 4: Ordeal and Reward

To recap: Every journey that you design for the purpose of transforming people will have 5 stages. And most projects like this one will include at tleast 2 such 5 stage journeys. At some point these 2 journeys will begin to overlap.

For us in the KTS project, the 2 journeys would begin to overlap as soon as the second journey also hit the third stage: the journey itself.

The KTS project focussed on 5 areas of activity:

  1. Sport
  2. Entrepeneurship
  3. Arts and Carafts
  4. Performing Arts and
  5. Compassion days

The first 4 areas were running as workshops on Mondays, Tuesdays Thursdays and Fridays. Kids could choose which workshop they wanted to join. These were aimed mostly at older kids and youth, but eventually everyone took part, since there was not enough of the older ones to go around.

On Wednesdays everyone would do compassion day. This meant that they would go out to serve their own community in some way: visiting the elderly and ill, cleaning up the park, planting trees or painting a building or play equipment.

 Appart from compassion days, every workshop was designed as a journey to keep kids engaged. All of them followed the same basic pattern:

Week 1 Prepare for the workshop activities

Weeks 2 and 3: challenges and events

Week 4 Final competitions and reward ceremony.

Week 1: Rotating workshops

To help kids overcome their doubts and fears, the first week was set up so that they could do a different workshop every day. This way they had a whole week to decide where they wanted to commit for the rest of the programme.  They could get to know each facilitator and the requirements for each workshop so that they could find their place. They would receive an introductory experience that would prepare them for what was to come…

Weeks 2 and 3 were designed to keep everyone engaged. An exciting goal was set for each week end to focus the energy and keep them amped.

Week 2: Go Cart Rally

The adults’ journey began when they first began to raise awareness in their communities for the kids by organising pre holiday events (see previous posts). As the kids’ journey kicked in everyone was now in the same stage of the adventure.

At the end of week 2 on Saturday 26 June we hosted a great go cart rally. Every community built their own cart, decorated it and found businesses to sponsor them. They created cheerleader outfits from recyclable material and worked out some cheers to egg on their teams. Almost 100 people from every community were transported to a central place in Jonkershoek Stellenbosch.

They were judged on the number of laps they completed in 45 min, the presentation of their cart and stand, their cheer leaders and their general team spirit.

Week 3: Community Arts productions

At the end of week 3 a 30 min performing arts production had to be completed and performed to the parents as a dress rehearsal. At the same time, a 1.5 by 2 meter canvas had to be finished with art and graffiti around a particular theme.

To re-focus all the energy from go carts to arts, we sent guest facilitators in to look at what the groups have been doing and help them improve their standard. This proved an essential ingredient. Without it I am not sure all the communities would have had a product to show. This strategy was planned as a ‘fairy godmother’ strategy. The mentor appears to help the hero over a slump. This kept all engaged and focussed for another week.

Everyone now faced the Ordeal and Reward of week 4., the last week of the programme.

Keep Them Safe Stage 3, part 1 – The journey begins

Klapmuts soup drinkers giving the thumbs up
Klapmuts soup drinkers giving the thumbs up


on the first and second days, it was pouring with rain. When the clouds finally cleared, the mountains were covered in snow. Needless to say, very few kids came to the activities. This proved to be the first of many unforeseen obstacles on the road to running a successful holiday programme.

Because of this, PITCH teams adapted their plans and issued new calls to adventure. They nursed the kids through their doubts and fears with hot soup and warm smiles and an explosive first week line up! .  

For over 3 months we recruited, trained and nurtured about 200 adult volunteers to get them ready, so that they can get us ready. Then the time for preparation simply ran out and the Journey was upon us.

On 11 June Bafana Bafana scored the first goal of the Fifa Soccer World Cup and the following Monday on 14 June KTS kicked off. It was rainy and freezing cold but all over Stellenbosch courageous teams stood ready for kids who needed warm food and entertainment.

It is now nearly 2 weeks later and numbers are increasing every day.

But where do the kids come from? How did they know to come and where to come too? How did they know what they would find when they got there?

While the journey started form the adults and organisers, the kids still needed to be Called to Adventure.

You may have read earlier that we are designing 2 journeys simultaneously.

  1. Keep Them Safe: a story about adults putting together a holiday programme for kids during the Fifa Soccer World Cup
  2. The Perfect PITCH: a story about kids and young people playing and working to express themselves through Arts, culture, sport and entrepreneurship

Of course it is not true that the holiday programme started with marketing. In actual fact, the compassion days each community had to organise in preparation for the holiday programme also functioned as marketing events for the kids and young people.

Many communities followed these up with various events like talent shows and modelling competitions to get the kids’ attention. At the same time we, As back bone team, appointed a group to run a marketing campaign in schools to advertise the programme

At all these events the 3 elements of the Call to Adventure were taking into account:

  1. Who is the target audience? What are their characteristics, strengths and weaknesses?
  2. What do their Ordinary Worlds look like? How are they stuck?
  3. What is our promise to them?

But something went wrong with the marketing… when KTS kicked off, only young kids arrived. There were very few, if any, young people older than 11.  What happened?

One reason was that the schools that were visited with the marketing group were mostly primary schools, so the older kids never heard the Call. Although all Secondary Schools were also targeted, few opened their doors for the marketing group.

Also the holiday programme was designed so that young kids would play from 9 to 12 and the older ones from 11 to 14:00. This was hard to advertise and communicate it seems. Youngsters who did arrive came early with the little ones and then left when they saw too few of their own age there.

When PITCH teams saw this trend, many came up with good ideas in the first week to get youngsters on board. Some paraded through the streets with music and mega phones calling the kids out of their homes and out of the streets. Others changed their programmes by using the older kids who came early to assist with the young ones. Eventually in some communities the two sepearte programmes have now just fused into one.

Finally, a team of photographers and writers have added their weight to our project and have taken it upon them to make the project more visible in the local media. We ar forever thankful to them.  Thank you to the adult Asset Builders of Stellenbosch.

Eventually we are noticing that the best Call to Adventure for the older kids is the content of the programme itself. The longer it runs, the more friends tell each other and the more kids and young people pitch for the perfect PITCH.

The Perfect PITCH programme is its own ‘perfect pitch’.

Why? Because kids, but especially young people are full of fears and doubts and it takes time for them to overcome these and commit fully to the adventure. Maybe more on that next time as we go a little deeper into the design of the programme itself and look at The Perfect PITCH – preparing kids for their journey.

Keep Them Safe Stage 2 – Preparing for the Journey

KTS leaders regrouping at a team building session
KTS leaders regrouping at a team building session


internal doubts plagued them.  The task was a mammoth one and few felt they could make a difference by themselves. Where would they find the time and money? They weren’t trained for this kind of thing? How will they ever be able to keep it up and sustain such an output?

Because of this the Stb municipality, TUG and the Asset Builders Network joined together to run the Keep them Safe project. Its aim: to equip community leaders for the task of running their own holiday programme for kids during the Fifa World Cup.

And so the backbone team, workshop leaders and pitch teams embark on the enormous task of organising 12 holiday programmes in 12 communities across Stellenbosch. 200 adults 10 000 kids and young people. Their first task: to test their abilities by organising one Compassion Day Programme before the actual programme kicks off.

Peter Block author of Community – the Art of Belonging, teaches the importance of allowing people to raise and share their doubts and reservations. Unless room is given for people to identify and share their concerns and fears, they are unable to move beyond getting excited about something and taking action to make that thing happen.

Doubts and reservations should always be allowed into the space and accepted for what they are. Sales people will also know that if you can accept and work with the potential buyer’s reservations and objections, you are more likely to make a sale.

This marks the first of three elements that make up Stage 2 of the story:

Preparing for the Journey

  1. Refusal of the call: When the internal doubts and reservations are too strong and the protagonist does not feel like he/she has what it takes.
  2. Meeting the Mentor: The introduction of a guide that sees the potential in the protagonist and is willing to offer training and mentorship that would enable them to meet the challenge.
  3. Crossing the Threshold: Protagonist must perform a clear action that proves his/her commitment to the adventure.

As the protagonist sorts out his fears, objections and doubts, he becomes more and more ready to make a commitment or not. While many questions were answered during one on one conversations, we also formalised this stage at our Taster launch. We divided the group according to their area of interest: Performing Arts, Arts and Crafts, Entrepenurship, Sports, Education and Community Wellness.

Next we facilitated in each of those groups a conversation around doubts and reservations as well as the solutions the group could come up with together to address those problems.

We knew that if the questions are not heard and answers do not satisfy, the commitment is not there. In the same breath, if those doubts remain after your utmost attempts to overcome them, you do not want the person’s commitment anymore, because their heart is somewhere else. Let me explain.

For Keep them Safe we had two main objections: Where will the resources come from? How are you going to ensure sustainability?

Our answer to both was the same: How can you help us with this problem? Those who could not volunteer their time, see where they could find resources or did not see themselves  commit to the dream long-term, were not the right people for the job.

In fact, our entire strategy focussed on balancing the dream with the cost.

IF the potential partner buys the dream, they will pay the price. This was also our sustainability plan: If a community could find the resources (time, money, skills, equipment etc) within themselves they will be independent from outside funding and resources and therefore will be able to find it time and time again for every holiday programme to come. Their independence makes it sustainable.

Now make no mistake, many said ‘we are from a poor community, we have nothing to offer’ and we would say: we will help you find what you need’. We offered training in project management, leadership and fundraising. We also offered training and support for workshops and programmes. We provided guides and mentors for every lack.

By the time Keep Them Safe was over, every community would have a trained team that would co-ordinate and run their own holiday programme with resources from their own community. We called them PITCH teams.

At our Taster launch we therefore included an entire programme of introductions where partners and organisations presented their offerings of training and support. It was a dialogue between the fears of the teams and the offerings of the guides.

Finally, we needed all teams to prove their commitment and so we issued their first challenge: within the next two months they would have to run a Compassion Day programme once in their communities. They had to identify a need within their community and organise the kids and youth to address that need with resources from within their own community – or resources that they found themselves outside the community. Again we would provide training and guidelines.

To summarise, the second stage of every story is the preparation for the journey. IF you are planning a programme or project here are the questions you need to answer:

  1. How will you air and validate your target audience’s doubts and reservations? How can you clarify the cost of the commitment?
  2. Who are the Mentors and what training can they offer? How will theymaximise the strengths of the target audience?
  3. What clear action do protagonists have to take to prove their commitment?

Keep Them Safe Stage 1 – The Call to Adventure

Boy with soccer ball in Kayamandi
Boy with soccer ball in Kayamandi

Once upon a time

there were leaders who saw young people full of potential all across Stellenbosch.

Every day they would do their bit to help the kids discover and utilise their potential. Yet they felt alone in their struggle against the lack of opportunities, the hopelessness and the moral degeneration that threaten to steal the futures of the kids they work with.

Then one day South Africa, is chosen to host the soccer world cup. With it came the promise of economic influx, more money and more hope for everyone. Also along with it came the predators, those who promise the same, but exploit instead: human trafficking, commercial sex, child abuse, substance abuse. The leaders knew the kids would need to be kept safe. They also knew that the world cup would unleash a wave of opportunity for change and transformation – a wave that they needed to ride…

Yesterday I shared with you that most projects contain at least 2 stories: the story of the organisers who dream the dream and put together the project and the story of the target audience for whom they are designing the project.

Keep Them Safe is the story of the leaders and adults who embarked on the journey of realising the dream of a holiday programme for kids and young people all across Stellenbosch for the entire 4 week Fifa World Cup tournament.

The Perfect Pitch is the story of the kids and young people who sign up for the programme.

I am sharing with you the chronological unfolding of each of these stories stage by stage. Every story has 5 stages:

I               The Call to Adventure

II             Preparation for the Journey

III            The Journey itself

IV            Ordeal and Reward

V             Returning Home

In real time today 22 June, the stories are both in the Journey stage, but  let me tell you more about the Call to Adventure of Story 1 – Keep Them Safe.

Every Call to Adventure contains 3 essential elements:

  1. an introduction to the protagonist or hero – once upon a time there was
  2. a description of their Ordinary World which includes a problem which they are either unaware of, or unable to overcome – every day they would
  3. a once in a life time Opportunity that promises a solution, or a way out – then one day

We issued our Call to Adventure in two main ways from September 2009 to March 2010.

First we(and I really mean Henko, the project leader) had one on one coffee conversations with everyone he identified as possible partners – possible heroes for this story. In these meetings they would share their common concerns about the youth – their Ordinary World and the problems they face. Then Henko would introduce his dream… Because of his heartfelt identification with the plight of the prospective hero (being one himself) and his enthusiasm for his dream, the idea spread like wild fire. OF course Henko would never take credit for the idea since it was sparked in him after a conversation he had with people from The Ultimate Goal, the SA Sports Cohalition and the Stellenbosch municipality.  Still he saw the opportunity and started to call everyone and any one to join the adventure.

The Second way we issued the Call was more formalised. In March 2010 we launched a KTS Taster. The aim of this event was to gather everyone who had had a coffee conversation with Henko or one of the others he had ignited, into one space. We wanted to launch our dream formally and explain it to as many ;people as we could gather.

Representatives were brought in from all over the Stelenbosch district and put together in one room to get all the hot coals together and start a bonfire.

Yet now everyone had had time to ponder over the project and some concerns, doubts and reservations had begun to surface. We were moving into the next stage of the story: preparing for the journey… I will tell you all about that tomorrow.

In the mean time, if you have a project that you want to ‘sell’ figure out:

  1. Who is your target audience/protagonist? Is there more than one?
  2. What is their context (Ordinary World) like? What problems do they face that seem insurmountable?
  3. What solution can you provide that will speak directly to this need? What once in a life time opportunity can you identify and optimise (The Call)?

Keep Them Safe – Introduction

KTS Banner displayed in every community
KTS Banner displayed in every community

Since September last year (2009) a handful of people including myself, started to dream about a mammoth project that will stretch across the entire Stellenbosch district during the Soccer World Cup. While many saw either dollar signs or red flags, we saw a great opportunity for transforming our communities by focussing on kids and young people.

What if we could use world cup fever (or fevah) as a Call to Adventure and community transformation?

The Keep Them Safe project was born.

Today I am thrilled to report that there are holiday programmes running in 13 communities across Stellenbosch targeting kids and young people. The programme is called ‘The Perfect Pitch’ , it will run for 4 weeks and is entirely managed by teams of people from the communities themselves. Today I begin telling our story.

The purpose of the story

From the start I was privileged to contribute my knowledge of story and mythic journeys to help design the entire project as a journey of growth and transformation for all involved.

The story structure of a mythic journey has as its main purpose the transformation of the hero, also called protagonist. The entire story is designed to fulfill this function and every character in the story play his or her role in such a way that the hero can grow. The only difference between the hero and anyone else in the story is transformation and everything and everyone else is there purely to contribute to this.

It follows therefore, that it may be possible to use the structure of story to design a journey of transformation for other people. If you understand how to design a story so that the hero transforms, you can use this knowledge to design events and programmes that would let the participants transform and grow. This is what we did for Keep Them Safe.
Using the 5 basic stages of the mythic journey as well as its sub components, we designed such a journey of growth. As you read about my process, keep in mind that the same principles will be true for any other programme or event you want to design.

The title of the story

Before getting to the first stages, we must first determine the title of the story. The title refers to the protagonist and the challenge of the journey. To keep titles short, one or the other usually valls away eventually, but to get to the final title, both elements need to be clarified. A good example is Sleeping Beauty i.e. the girl who needed to wake” or Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

Many stories only have the name of the protagonist e.g. Hanzel and Grettel , others only have the challenge e.g. Titanic. Of course stories have other titles too, but the most common titles are the ones referring to the protagonist and his challenge.

Early on we discovered that The Keep Them Safe project has two titles referring to two different protagonists and two different challenges. Since then I realised that this is true of most projects and it is essential to take the two (and sometimes three) stories apart.

For us the stories were:

Keep them Safe: The story of community leaders working together to keep their young people safe.

The Perfect Pitch: The story of young people creating a perfect pitch for their own lives and their communities.

Today is the first day that these two stories are in exactly the same stage i.e. The Journey itself. So with both stories now running on their own and gaining momentum, let me tell you how we got here, and why the two stories did not overlap until today…