Potential of young offenders unlocked

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Soft-Machine---textThe Soft Machine is the first Gangstar Enterprise business, employing three ex-offenders and serving Cape Town with fresh gourmet soft-serve ice-cream. (Image: Gangster Enterprises)

Ice cream is giving a group of ex-convicts a new lease on life, thanks to the Message Entrepreneurship Programme (MEP), which unlocks the potential of young men in prison.

MEP believes that every young person in prison has the potential and ability to change and make a positive contribution to society. It works to unlock this potential and empower the young men to become world-changers, so that they will multiply in number and transform others.

However, this is no easy task in South Africa, where young men face the harsh realities of high youth unemployment, crime and re-offending.

According to MEP, studies have shown that inmate participation in education, vocational and job training, and prison work skills development significantly reduces recidivism. It believes that prison is a storehouse of untapped potential, and offers a holistic curriculum that includes spiritual, economic, social and emotional support and training to reduce re-offending.

The organisation believes that young men have the potential to become community leaders, loving fathers, responsible citizens and catalysts for change.

THE SOFT MACHINE

The Soft Machine is the result of a partnership between ex-offenders and MEP. It has set up an initiative called Gangstar Enterprises that gives ex-convicts a chance at entrepreneurship. The Soft Machine, run by former prisoners Jade Wyngaard, Siphe Nopotwa and Vuyo Nyabaza, is an ice cream enterprise operating out of an old caravan.

Wyngaard joined Gangstar Enterprises in October 2014 and is employed as part of the Soft Machine Enterprise team. He helps oversee all the bookings, marketing and deals directly with the clients. He was released from prison in 2014 and has grabbed the opportunity with Gangstar Enterprises with both hands.

“Joining the Message Trust and working for The Soft Machine has given me a new start in life,” he says. “I’m thankful for being part of the Message family.”

Nopotwa joined Gangstar Enterprises at the same time. He is passionate about youth development and believes that young people are the future of South Africa. Nopotwa’s long-term goal is to run a small enterprise that will employ young people, reducing the unemployment rate and poverty.

“Since I came out of prison I struggled to find the opportunity to grow in business and life,” he says. “Being a part of Gangstar Enterprises has given me hope and a new lease of life.”

Nyabaza is a former Cape Town gangster and prisoner who loves God and is passionate about reaching young people in and outside prison. He joined Gangstar Enterprises in January 2015.

He drives the Soft Machine to events and works with the Message Trust on its prison team, investing in and disciplining young men in the Message Entrepreneurship Programme.

“I have a passion to share with young people what God has done in my life,” he says. “Young people need to know there is a God who loves them and can save them.”

PLAY YOUR PART

Are you playing your part to help improve the lives of the people around you or the environment? Do you know of anyone who has gone out of their way to help improve South Africa and its people?

If so, submit your story or video to our website and let us know what you are doing to improve the country for all.