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Planet Youth – a better future for all

In the group photograph are the Executive Mayor for George, Leon van Wyk (centre) standing next to Pall Rikhardsson (From Iceland, CEO of Planet Youth), CEO Planet Youth Iceland (left of Ald Van Wyk, grey suit) at the launch today held in the George Civic. The programme is a joint operation by various western cape government departments, the University of Cape Town and various NGO’s and public partners.

Planet Youth, a whole-of-society programme focussed on mental health, was launched today 3 February 2023 in George.

The programme, coordinated by the departments of Health, Education and Cultural Affairs and Sports is an Icelandic prevention concept that has proved success in reducing substance abuse and is designed to strengthen protective factors and building healthy communities, especially young people.

“The Planet Youth programme being launched in the George subdistrict of the Garden Route provides us with a unique opportunity to positively influence the lives of our young people. The programme relies on intersectoral partnerships, interconnectedness with our communities and a whole-of-society approach to ensure that our youth reach their ultimate potential and realise their dreams. The coordinating team comprising representatives from various departments and spheres of government has been hard at work to set the scene for the good work that is to follow. Collectively, we look forward to the positive impact the programme will have on our communities at large,” said District Director for the Garden Route and Central Karoo health districts, Mr Zee Brickles.

“This concept has already kicked off with trial surveys at Jonga High, Thembalethu High and Pacaltsdorp High School in 2022. The official roll-out of the programme to the schools in George will take place in February 2023. We will start with a survey of all the Grade 8 and 9 learners of George, Uniondale and Haarlem this month. This will be followed by school and community meetings to assess the results of the surveys and identify possible community programmes to address the issues identified. A Convenors Group has been established, with the Department of Health, George Municipality, departments of Education, Cultural Affairs and Sports, Social Development, University of Cape Town, SAPS and several non-governmental organisations,” said Dr Zilla North, Medical Manager for the George subdistrict.

The aim of the programme is to enrol all children in George across the subdistrict in activities that promote protective factors to develop healthy futures. The local community aims to achieve significant reduction in youth alcohol harms which will be measured as decreased school dropout rates, improved school academic performance, and a reduction in violence. This is projected to alleviate the burden on the overwhelmed mental healthcare system, correctional services, judiciary, education and social development.

“I am very excited and proud that the Planet Youth programme is being launched in George. I had the opportunity to meet and engage with the core team that will be driving the introduction of this whole of society programme. Planet Youth will provide our youth in George with the opportunity to become part of the anticipated benefits ranging from wellness and employment, to food security and cultural and sporting achievements”, said Executive Mayor Mr Leon van Wyk

The local community aims to improve employment rates by producing employment-ready youth. By applying the Planet Youth vision of positioning the school as the hub, reducing the economic and social harms of youth substance use and by increasing employment rates, the local community aims to significantly improve food security in affected communities. It is also aiming to achieve a significant increase in sporting and cultural achievement which will improve mental health, physical well-being and competitiveness in affected schools.

Background to Planet Youth Programme:

Planet Youth George is a WOSA (whole-of-society approach) platform for community collaboration that aims to improve mental health by reducing youth substance use, violence, and school dropout rates using an evidence-based and internationally tested approach of youth development activities, community empowerment and rigorous auditing.

Planet Youth inc. is an international organisation, working in many countries worldwide, developed and underdeveloped, to alleviate alcohol harms in adolescence with benefits across the life course.

Planet Youth and the University of Cape Town commenced the George Planet Youth Programme in October 2022.

Core principles of the Planet Youth community programme

  • The programme utilises an intersectoral approach involving a multitude of NGOs, enterprises, and departments of government using a WOSA  approach.
  • The programme is a long-term investment with sustainable long-term outcomes (at least 10 years).
  • The programme is community based, with schools becoming hubs of afterschool sports, cultural, food security and community development activities. Schools will collaborate with parents and organisations to engage them in encouraging youth participation and fostering good parenting techniques.
  • The programme develops local expertise and skills to maintain the quality improvement cycles that are initiated.
  • The programme will be rigorously audited through bi-annual surveys and reports to quantify the impact of interventions and guide further efforts.

South Cape Children’s Choir, an amateur regional children’s choir based in George performed and finished the programme of the day with an unusual and stirring rendition of the national anthem.

Issued by George Municipality, on behalf of the Western Cape Department of Health