16 June, 2020
Sappi empowers youth by providing access to COVID-19 information during Youth Month
people in South Africa's rural areas have been using their power to communicate
by getting active on their social media platforms with useful information about
curbing the spread of the COVID-19 Coronavirus.
Thanks to a useful set of illustrated messages created by Sappi Southern
how to combat the disease, the team of Abashintshi are actively aligning their
activities with the theme for South Africa's 2020 Youth Month, which is : "Youth Power: Growing South
Africa together in the period of COVID-19".
Abashintshi are a group of enthusiastic youngsters who volunteered to receive community
development training sponsored by Sappi over the last recent years and have
been using this knowledge to bring about social mobilisation in their
communities. "Normally they would be arranging the Sappi-sponsored school
holiday programmes around now to keep youngsters entertained, but the lockdown
and the disruption of school schedules, prevented them from doing so this
year", comments Mpho Lethoko, Sappi Southern Africa Communications Manager.
"Instead, in the spirit of Youth Day, they are using their power to influence other
youths by informing and uplifting communities by spreading the word about COVID-19
using their mobile phones", she says.
an earlier statement about Youth Month 2020, commenting about the negative effects
of the Coronavirus pandemic on all of society and on youth employment, Sport,
Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa had urged the youth of 2020 "to help
to rebuild a society post COVID-19," saying that the potentially life
threatening disease, "has some positive spinoffs as many young people
especially those in the creative industries are creating 4th Industrial
Revolution's solutions that transcend beyond the end of the pandemic."
the outbreak of the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic in February, Sappi has been
creating easy-to-understand illustrated infographics that have been distributed
within their own operations on a regular basis and which has also been shared
with the employees and families of their contractor staff. These educational
messages which are all available in English and isiZulu have also been made available to the
broader public via the Abashintshi. The
messages deal with a number of topics including personal hygiene, social
distancing, how to wear and care for masks, how to distinguish COVID-19
symptoms, how to self-isolate and how to cope with the stress and anxiety of
the Lockdown situation, to name some.
my role as Umshintshi in the Njavini community, I have undertaken the
responsibility of sharing information with my community to stop the spread of
the virus. I have been busy creating awareness around COVID-19 to my close
friends, community members and church groups, and I am very pleased that I have
seen a change in their behaviour. People are using masks correctly which is
important as the economy slowly opens up. It is great to see COVID-19
infographic posters put up in tuckshops around my area," says Ntando Sawoni.
Centane from Umgababa agrees and says: "The Lockdown period has been
challenging for our community, but I have tried to contribute towards the fight
against COVID-19 by sharing the WhatsApp COVID-19 infographics provided by
Sappi. They are very helpful, and people have expressed their appreciation for
the information." She finds that in her engagements with the community,
children have been the most receptive: "They often play at our local sports
ground in large groups and I tell them about the consequences of large gatherings,
and they take my advice to heart and listen. I have also bought several face
masks from a local lady who makes and sells them to me at a discounted unit
price of R5, and I give these to youngsters in my community," she says.
Mhlongo from Sokhulu in Northern KZN says that the fact that the pandemic has
forced them to put some of their Abashintshi community projects on hold, has
made him focus on curbing the spread of the virus. "I have warmly received the
task and have been actively teaching different communities around Sokhulu about
COVID-19 and the measures that we need to adhere to in order to minimise the
spread of the virus in our communities. I have been sharing COVID-19
infographics via WhatsApp and it is impressive to hear positive talks inside
taxis, people expressing their commitment to obey the law and to take all the
necessary precautions to fight the virus.
Sappi infographics are great in that we have them in IsiZulu and English. I
have also encouraged the elderly to purchase at least three face masks, as they
find it difficult to wash their mask on a daily basis. I will be visiting
schools in my community and churches to encourage people to continue adhering
to health and safety precautions put in place to fight COVID-19."
About the Sappi Abashintshi programme
Abashintshi is an isiZulu word meaning
The programme was established by Sappi in 2015
in conjunction with a community development agency, DevCom. Since its inception the
programme has been extended to 63 communities in KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga
and today involves 122 active Abashintshi.
Based on the Asset-based community development
(ABCD) methodology and with the objective of establishing and helping activate
entrepreneurial enterprises among their communities, the Abashintshi are taught
how to facilitate life skills and to encourage community members in recognising
their assets, and adopting a 'can-do' attitude, putting these assets to work.
They also conduct the Ifa Lethu Legacy programme with the elders in their
communities to get a greater appreciation for their heritage and culture.
During school holidays, the Abashintshi arrange
holiday programmes for school children, providing opportunity for the children
to participate in sporting and creative activities, whilst also using their
Life Skills training to equip the children with leadership and social skills.
In their second year of training they also
undergo Business Skills training, which further helps with offering
entrepreneurship training and the establishment of micro-businesses in their
The programme has resulted in excess of 500
small businesses that have either been started up or rejuvenated with the
assistance of the Abashintshi. These range from brickmaking projects, poultry
and pig farms to creches and home industries, among a host of others
Read more about it here: www.sappi.com/abashintshi-project-sappi