Acclaimed Hollywood actor Forest Whitaker has decided to take the youth of Athlone under his wing after experiencing the trauma and contention of having a disabled family member become addicted to drugs and alcohol. Now the actor, who is also a humanitarian and social activists, feels it his responsibility to prevent the same thing from happening to a new generation.
Whitaker has a programe called the Whitaker Peace and Development Initiative (WPDI), which encompasses his Youth Peacemaker Network Programme on the Cape Flats.
The WPDI also has operations in Sudan, Uganda, Mexico and the US.
A total of 46 youths have been enrolled in the Athlone programme, and will allow the participants to train in a variety of fields. It also promotes peace, social development and reconciliation.
“This organisation is a network that hopefully will reach across the globe to connect everyone to build peace. I was here in the Flats; I got the chance to see some of the difficulties, and I listened. By me being here to understand the needs, it was a perfect place for me to begin with,” Whitaker said during a press conference hosted in Brigdetown, Athlone. “It is important for us to have an intuitive feeling of what is going on and what can be done. This is why we work with local youth. We train them as mediators, entrepreneurs and teachers because we want them to become versatile leaders who can spark change through concrete action, be it workshops on human rights or small businesses that will create jobs for other young people.”
He first witnessed the challenges Cape Town’s youth faces while shooting a film called Zulu in the city.
“I had no hope that one day I would change the kind of person I am. In the future I see myself training the upcoming generation about peace, and in ICT,” participant Bathobele Nontsele said to IOL. “The programmes offered in this organisation are ICT skills and business entrepreneurial skills and conflict resolution.”