Making a positive contribution: Hackney young people at the Cape Town project. Photo: Hackney Quest

One is an inner city London borough, the other is an African superpower. Yet it didn’t take much for young people from Hackney and South Africa to overcome their differences and work together on community projects.

Nine fifteen-year-olds from local charity Hackney Quest returned triumphant last month after ten days spent in the South African capital.

The Hackney youth group managed to raise over £12,000 for the project through grants and through a staggering number of charity events put on in the ten months before they headed out.

Fundraisers ranged from bag packing at Tesco and car washing to bake sales and a midnight sponsored cycle to South Africa House in Trafalgar Square. All funds raised went towards flights, accommodation and funding the activities.

Money raised also went towards helping the equivalent youth group in South Africa pay for activities, meals and transport, enabling them to take part in the project.

The young volunteers from Hackney Quest put on a number of workshops to promote intercultural dialogue and discuss challenges and opportunities for young people in both Hackney and Cape Town.

They also led discussions on the issues of youth and sexual health and produced documentaries exploring life as a young person in the UK and South Africa and their collective hopes for the future.

During their stay, the Hackney volunteers visited different townships within the city, including New Cross Road, Nyanga and Langa.

As part of their volunteer work, they got involved at the Ikhaya Labantu homeless shelter, helping out in the crèche and painting murals to decorate the shelter’s walls. They also squeezed in a spot of sightseeing, visiting the World Cup Stadium, Parliament Building and Table Mountain.

The experience has had a profound effect on its young participants, says Keeley Williams, youth participation and volunteer manager at Hackney Quest.

“The whole of experience of having an idea, helping it develop, fundraising for it, creating activities and workshops, leaving London and the UK to embark on this exploration has been invaluable to the young people,” she adds. “Understanding, peace and unity are key factors that many nations are trying to achieve with each other. Our Hackney young people are a small piece of the puzzle and by sharing this experience with others, they hope to develop this further.”