Two young men from Mitchell’s Plain are preparing for a life-changing pilgrimage to Panama in South America in January next year.
Keanan August, 17, from Tafelsig, and Melvin Wakefield, 17, from Rocklands, will be joined by their mentor, Denzel Swarts, 32, from Tafelsig.
The two youngsters, who are in Grade 12 at Oval North High School, will also be visiting Spain and Costa Rica.
The international pilgrimage, which takes place every three years, is being undertaken through the Catholic Church and, added Mr Swarts, as many as 1.2 million young people from across the world will be gathering in Panama for World Youth Day. The trip will run from Tuesday to Sunday January 22 to 27.
“They will be doing arts and culture, tackling social issues, networking and building friendships, especially discovering their faith on this journey,” he said
Mr Swarts, who is also the founder and chairperson of Son of the Soil Leadership Foundation, has been going on pilgrimages for the past 10 years, having gone to Australia in 2008, Spain in 2011, Brazil in 2013 and Poland in 2016. “This time around the opportunity came to invite others and give back, hoping that the pilgrimage will help them too.”
He said he decided to help the boys raise their R30 000 for the trip by launching his own wines, which will be served to guest at a fund-raiser being held next month.
Keanan said: “I was part of the Epic youth group in 2017 at our church, St Timothy Catholic Church in Tafelsig. Denzel was the youth leader then, and he convinced me to go on this pilgrimage for World Youth Day. We must save for R30 000. Our trip is six months from now and I am so excited.”
Melvin said: “In our community, negative things affect our young people and sometimes they see this as an option to help them get by in life. I want to show young people that that is not the only way. I just want to deepen my faith more. Your surroundings don’t determine your future.”
Keanan added: “Being a Sunday school teacher, I need to help young people where I can (and) going on this trip will help me gain many skills.”
Melvin said: “Going on a pilgrimage is still relevant and necessary for people wanting to understand their faith with God, as that is the purpose of the trip. My mother’s great grandmother, Biebie, who passed away in 2010 took me to church. Everyone was busy but she made it her mission to take me to church. After she died, I still went to church.”
While Melvin’s mother, Carmen Wakefield, 34, is nervous about him travelling overseas, she believes it is an opportunity he cannot miss. “This is not just a trip, it is a spiritual journey. We look forward to this. I am proud of the decision he has made.”
Keanan’s mother, Miriam August, 42, said: “They’re not just going on a vacation, they’re going on a trip to connect with young people from around the world and deepen their faith. Many people in and around the community look up to them.”
Mr Swarts described the trip as “a great reward for being persistent with doing good things”.
“You can easily get sucked into social ills around you. The church is one way to keep the youth on a narrow path and do good.
“In 2008, my Dad passed away, four days before I had to leave for my pilgrimage. My family encouraged me to go nonetheless. The trip was a great experience for me.”
If you wish to contribute to the boys’ trip, contact Denzel Swarts at firstname.lastname@example.org or 082 789 6332. They will also host a Wine and Dine fund-raiser on Sunday August 12 at Tafelsig Community Centre, from 1.30pm to 5pm. Tickets cost R180. For details or to RSVP, call Miriam August at 071 061 3127.