sisonkeSisonke Programme – Heal and grow

Recognizing the prevalence of poverty, crime, violence, substance abuse and HIV/AIDS in our communities, Sisonke lays a foundation of self-worth and resilience in at-risk youth and their caregivers, to break the distress cycles and restore hope and possibility. Sisonke’s experiential learning courses focus on healing the trauma of the past and equipping participants to step in strength towards the future.

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Even after seeing many people killed violently in front of me, this course has taught me to forgive and have hope that i can still be what i want to be despite the gang violence that surrounds community

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What is the Sisonke Programme?

Sisonke uses wilderness based experiential learning methodology to support the resolution of trauma in young South Africans. The programme works directly with individuals who have been impacted on by trauma, abuse and neglect relating to poverty, chronic illness, crime and substance abuse.
The programme also works with the adults who care for these young people. This is accomplished through the provision of a caring for caregiver programme and a range of courses that build personal and professional capacity.

What does it achieve?

In Young South Africans

  • Development of confidence and self-esteem
  • Resolution of trauma
  • Increase in motivation and experience of personal vision

In Careworkers

  • Increased professional capacity
  • Increased self-resilience to prevent burn-out

How does it work?

All the programmes for young people take place in the pristine wilderness environment. Courses are run for between 6 and 9 days.
Sisonke is delivered in partnership with community based youth organisations and child and youth care centres. All courses are customized to meet the developmental outcomes identified by the multi-disciplinary team of the partner organisation. Pre- and post-course sessions are run with the participants for purposes of assessment and integration of experience.

Programmes for the care workers take place in either wilderness environments or urban based training facilities. Specific courses have been developed to support the professional capacity of the care worker.


programme1Ukuzazi Programme – Optimize opportunity

Partnering with institutions that open up educational and economic opportunities for young people from low-income backgrounds, Ukuzazi builds their fundamental leadership capacities for self-awareness, initiative, teamwork, and service in their communities.
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Being on this programme has taught me that most of my weaknesses are now becoming my strengths not to fail. My weaknesses are no longer an impact on who I am but a small part of what I am becoming, an achiever and a great leader

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What is the Ukuzazi Leadership Programme?

Educo Africa’s Ukuzazi Leadership Programme uses wilderness-based experiential learning methodology to build capacity in young professionals and tertiary level students, further enabling them to lead others and themselves effectively in their studies or career.

TSiBA Education, one of the programme’s long standing partners, describes the Ukuzazi Leadership Programme as filling the blind spot of skills training; that is to draw forth from students the self-belief that they can succeed and make a difference.

Ukuzazi, in its literal translation, means ‘to know oneself’ in isiXhosa.

What does it achieve?

Improved levels of self-awareness
Personal vision and action, in relation to self and the environment
Personal healing and reflection for learning
Deep listening skills
Communication skills
Creative thinking
Planning and organisation skills
Intrapersonal and interpersonal leadership skills

How does it work?

All Leadership courses take place in the deep wilderness, and focus on inter- and intra-personal development.

In the 7-day Leadership Development course, all participants have the chance to take an active leadership role in the wilderness, practising skills in navigation, conflict resolution, logistical planning, problem solving, team motivation, sound environmental practise, interpersonal communication and reaching goals, including climbing mountain peaks and rock climbing activities.

Reflective activities of journaling, storytelling, mirroring and spending a night sleeping solo are all critical to the process, allowing space for personal learning and growth. At the end of the course the participants are invited to voice an intention as to how they are going to lead themselves and others in the context of their personal lives, work or place of study on their return from the wilderness. This intention is framed in light of the personal awareness and growth that has taken place during their wilderness experience.

The Ukuzazi Leadership programme also offers a longer 9-day Rites of Passage course for participants who intend to mark a changing moment from one life stage to another. This may be from student to working professional, or school graduate to student. The course focuses on a longer solo experience, with reflective activities of journaling, storytelling and mirroring.


programme2Sihambela Phambili – Lead and give back

Transferring the learning into practice and action, Sihambela Phambili encourages alumni of programmes – Educo Africans – to advance their entrepreneurial and economic productivity, and to become agents of positive change in their communities through youth-led social and environmental networks.

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One of the most important impacts is that since I have been part of SP I have realised some of the most capabilities that I was not aware of or that were suppressed…it has given me an opportunity to give my voice out and listened to.Masakhane Matushe

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What is Sihambela Phambili?

Sihambela Phambili is a youth movement of alumni of the Educo Africa wilderness programme. The movement is used to establish networks, implement social and environmental projects and develop skills that support young people as agents of positive change and promote economic livelihood.

What does it achieve?

  • Young people get to be ‘drivers’ in creating a better world.
  • Young people are recognised as full global citizens.
  • Young people get to live there potential.

How does it work?


Sihambela Phambili - how does it work

Sihambela Phambili – how does it work




Network Hub – How do we connect and collaborate in the world?

This hub functions through both social media platforms and real space.
The objective of this hub is to connect, expose and create a broader field of engagement for young people to get involved.

Nation-Building Hub – What can we do to bring change now?

A range of activities that are researched, selected and implemented by youth for purposes of:

Bringing immediate improvement into a social system.
Creating experience of competence amongst participants as ‘change makers’.
Demonstrating this ability to the “adult” world thus creating a greater understanding of the role of young people in the development of a healthy society.

Advancement hub: How do we get better at doing this stuff?

This is a mechanism that allows the participants to bring their needs in respect of skills development to better equip them to think and live into a changed future. The model is typically designed around the social enterprise model.


internationalInternational Programme – Broaden the scope

Developing global learning communities and conscious global citizenship amongst youth, academics and professionals, the International Programme creates a platform for leadership learning journeys, dialogue and exchange across sectors, disciplines and countries.

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A glimpse of global citizenship has been added into my profile, in the sense that I can relate, understand, emphasise with others from other continents. But most importantly I can stand proud about my OWN culture and learn from others to enrich myself.SA International Course participant. 

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What is the Educo Africa International Programme?

The Educo Africa International Programme’s Mission is to make the world a place of peace and multinational learning; where people practice deep appreciation and care for the environment; where interdependence between Nations, Peoples and the Earth is understood; and where responsibility is integrated into leadership of self and others.

The Educo Africa International Programme offers custom designed courses that use wilderness immersion and community immersion to create learning experiences. These experiences are paradigm shifting, life changing and personally and professionally impactful. Our 20 years of experience of using the wilderness as a developmental tool and of building meaningful partnership with our local communities build the foundation of the two core components of the programme: The community & NGO immersion and the wilderness immersion component where South Africans and international participants meet and bond, and where each individual meets themselves in new and empowering ways. As a result the course fosters personal agency and conscious global citizenship.

What does it achieve?

The Educo Africa International Programme seeks to develop global learning communities and conscious global citizenship with professionals, academics and youth. It:

  • encourages cross-cultural learning and increases knowledge and experience pertinent to South Africa’s social, cultural, environmental, political and historical reality;
  • provides exposure to community development challenges as well as environmental and social justice issues in the South African context;
  • increases personal, community and global leadership potential;
  • raises self-awareness and provides personal development and reflection;
  • utilizes a community context to increase effectiveness and expertise;
  • builds international networks and relations; and
  • establishes long-term partnerships on all five continents.

How does it work?

The core focus of Educo Africa’s International Programme is to bring international participants – academics and professionals often from the social sector – to South Africa for a two week experiential learning journey that consists of a wilderness and community immersion component focusing on Social Justice, Social Work and Child & Youth Care practice, Social Entrepreneurship, Women in Leadership, Health, Juvenile Justice, Youth and Community Developement and other prevalent social, environmental and political issues in South Africa. As each course is custom designed the focus depends on the client’s desired outcomes.

The core principle of the courses is that we match any given group of up to 12 overseas students with the same number of South Africans for the duration of the 14 day course, thus allowing for deep immersion into cultural and personal worlds and increasing the opportunity for the integration of the experience. The matched group of South Africans comprise students from the field of social work (or a relevant field), and practitioners from the field – thus allowing for a broad spectrum of experience and exchange. A five day wilderness immersion builds the foundation for the subsequent immersion into communities, NGO engagement, and service learning experiences. Using the wilderness as a developmental tool is Educo Africa’s key methodology in its local programmes with youth and NGOs. This is the tool we use to assist youth in recognizing their inner potential and to build on this potential. In our 20 years of experience this, too, has proven to be a very powerful approach for our international courses.

Towards the end of our international courses we facilitate a conference day when stakeholders from all sectors (Government, Corporate, Academia, NGO and Foundations) are invited to contribute their views on Social Justice and Social Policy in South Africa today, or on other focus areas, depending on the key outcomes of the course. This is a great opportunity for the students to contextualize their experience. We facilitate a process of stitching these experiences into a greater canvas of understanding, which allows for valuable transfer of learning upon return to the participants’ respective home countries.

The Educo Africa International Programme also hosts International Training opportunities, as well as an International open enrolment Vision Quest.

All revenue generated though the International Programme is re-invested into Educo Africa’s work with youth in the economically disadvantaged communities of South Africa.