Our History

For Life was established in 1995 in Westbury, a township 8km west of Johannesburg. A group of young people came together to initiate innovate approaches to complex problems facing their community and, in doing so, make a difference in the lives of their family and friends. The Organisation has expanded its Westbury facilities by opening four new branches in other disadvantaged communities, i.e., the communities of Soweto, Ennerdale, Orange Farm , Platfontein in the Northern Cape and Mautse / Rosendal in the Free State.These dynamic communities have been crippled after many years of apartheid, discrimination, and poverty. It is evident that although the young people of these varied communities represent different cultural backgrounds, the disparities are prevalent cross-culturally. Many have not had positive relationships with productive, supportive role models. They lack the exposure and the vision to believe that positive change can happen in their lives.

Many fall prey to a life of crime or to a generational cycle of poverty and despondency. Anger and frustration are released anti-socially through random acts of violence, gang affiliation, crime, drug, and alcohol abuse. Many of the young people have difficulty adjusting to school and drop out before matriculation. As a result they lack the life skills needed to adjust to structured environments and to develop positive relationships. For Life aims to empower the youth through a myriad of programs designed to produce a safe and structured environment in which the youth can realize their potential and have access to the life skills needed to enrich their lives. Our target group includes unemployed, out of school youth, youth in conflict with the law, parents, and people in the community interested in mentoring. For Life started in a dynamic, predominantly coloured community, it is characterized by an unemployment rate of over 80%, a very high school drop - out rate, extreme family stress, poverty, very limited recreational facilities and substance abuse. The following is a reflection of most of the townships in South Africa. The severe lack of extra-curricular and recreational activities, mean that children and young people spend a lot of time on the streets ‘bloming’ (loafing/hanging around) or sitting in crammed flats.

The youth form the largest percentage with 40% of the population being younger than 18 years (1996 Census data). Living conditions are poor and even worse in the informal settlements with very high residential densities. Housing is basic with many people staying in self-constructed dwelling units made from corrugated iron, wood or clay, with very few brick houses visible. Due to the remoteness of the area, income levels are very low and indicative of the high levels of poverty and dependency rate within the community.

50% of the population have no income and approximately 62% earn less than R1, 500 per month. This indicates that the majority of people live below breadline. Most people are employed in elementary occupations or as craft and trade related workers, which is also indicative of the low levels of education and skills development. Despite representing South Africa’s present and future, children and young people also feel helpless in coping with the complex issues faced in their communities. They have few options other than a life of gangsterism and drugs (through dealing and substance abuse).

For Life believes that ‘bad kids’ are not born they are made, which means they can be remade. As violence, bad manners and gangsterism are learned; so can good self-presentation, love and peaceful ways of resolving conflict.