Some know me as Ruki, others as Robin Payne. I am a student of RLabsU, an RLabs ambassador, a founding member of RLabsU Strandfontein, Social Entrepreneur, copywriter, and photographic artist. This lockdown has left me reflecting on life as we know it on the Cape Flats and how Covid19 has put even further strain on our efforts to solve youth unemployment. At first, I thought, “…what happens now?” The year had just started and we were already staring at a seemingly impassable mountain. Being a new RLabsU ambassador, I thought, well, this cannot be it. It just can’t. I just joined this team. There must be a way we can still do something to continue our work. After all, it’s now more important than ever that we innovate. I barely started considering the idea, when I got a call from my hub leader…We would be using WhatsApp.

I’d already imagined it to be possible, but only barely, and the idea that someone had already resolved what could go wrong just made me sit up to think… have I been doing enough or have I joined the “watchers?” By then it wasn’t even a question whether it would work. It was all anticipation from there on in. We’ve now coached six sessions and believe me… it works surprisingly well. As with anything, some improvements have to be made all the time. We constantly learn new things about how flexible the medium is and thus, how we can help participants experiencing various tech issues during the process. The main thing to note is the environment we have created. I have been blessed to work with the most extraordinary team. There’s no shortage of wisdom and support, no shortage of patience and certainly no shortage of desire for change. Online learning could just as easily, tragically fail the student… but it’s the team that makes the difference (this applies in every other context one could think of). Together we were able to impact a number of individuals on the continent, even one from China. So not just South Africa… How amazing is that? This already works so well. We haven’t even properly started developing our approach. We are only in Beta and still better than we imagined.

This experience so far made me feel empowered. I feel like my work means infinitely more than money can buy. Observing people evolve, students and facilitators alike, is a special sight to behold, albeit online. You can see the impact in real time and know you’re not wasting any time adding to the world’s many subtle injustices. This goes to show that we can do anything we diligently spend our thought time on. And ultimately, with a committed team, the right leadership and guidance, anything we can conceive is closer at hand than we think. Naturally, our goal is now to grow our reach and see just how many individuals we can impact with this model. Thank you to the whole RLabs team for making this such a fun and impactful experience!

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