As youth month comes to a close, what better way to celebrate the agility, prowess, and smarts of some of the faces behind South Africa’s youth development movement than to hear from young activists first hand?

IAM caught up with Kyle David Barkley, 24-year-old activist from Milnerton, Cape Town. Kyle is a youth leader at Saint Francis Anglican church in Brooklyn. Here’s what he had to share with us about his passion, challenges, and motivations.

  • Briefly tell us about the work that you do 

As a youth leader in my community and church, I’ve worked with those around me to create a platform where young people can journey together in affirming and uplifting ways. Our Friday evening services are designed to be fun, engaging, and informal, yet responsive to the many needs and desires young people have. We learn to cope together. 

  • What are some of the challenges facing young people that you’ve faced?

Funding our projects is a considerable challenge, as we rely on the donations of teenagers and young adults. We’ve also had to adjust our service times on Friday evenings in consideration of the safety of our members, who walk to and from services. Other things that exist outside of the confines of the church, but still impact us greatly include substance abuse, mental health challenges and suicide as a result, and kidnappings and abductions.

  • What informs your activism and how has this served young people?

Many of the people with whom I grew up have turned to gangsterism, drugs and alcohol because they lacked access to opportunities, and spaces that encouraged productivity. Armed with the knowledge that they may become victims of circumstance; I am motivated to co-create spaces that allow young people from my community to imagine a better world and a better future for themselves. Although we are a church-based youth group, we want young people to freely have conversations about everything that they grapple with at home, school, in interpersonal relationships and in the community. 

  • The youth can’t do this work alone. Who are your allies and how can they better help you?

Support from the leadership of the church, past youth leadership and other community leaders has been integral in doing this work. Of course, the commitment of young people means little if their parents and guardians don’t support their efforts, so we’re thankful to them too. 

  • What would you say your legacy is regarding youth development work, and how would you like to be remembered?

We end off every Friday meeting by chanting the mantra “My circumstances shall not define my destiny. I believe in myself and in my abilities. I believe that I can achieve anything I put my mind to.” It’s this conviction that keeps me going, even in my personal life. I hope to be remembered as the guy who kept thing going, even when it got tough. That’s my legacy!