A new book, called Heroes, published by the organisation Activate! Change Drivers gives voice to the youth. Through Heroes, they hope to shine a light on everyday heroes and leaders who will stop at nothing to positively impact their surroundings. Heroes tells the stories of young people who have started their own businesses, overcome drug addiction, advocate for the LGBTQI+ community and much more.

Heroes comes alive with each page. The books define heroes as, “…everyday people who go through challenges that most of us go through. But what sets them apart is their inborn ability to wrestle with the tide and keep rolling with the punches to emerge victorious, every time.”

Additional characteristics of a hero, according to the book, are: honesty, resilience, tact, empathy, thoughtfulness and sincerity.

Five chapters of the book highlight over 10 young people who are actively involved in effecting change in literacy, health, youth economic participation, interconnectedness and inclusivity as well as active citizenship. Difficult as it was to choose, the stories that stood out the most for me under each chapter are the following:

Literacy: On page 17 of the book, you find Baamogeng Letobame’s story. He is a young man from the rural Northern Cape who currently lives and works in Johannesburg. But, while it is considered success to grow up and leave the village, Letobame and his peers have made it a point to host an annual career guidance event for the youth in their local villages and have since secured many scholarships for young villagers from both the state and the private sector. Over and above this, they run a community development NPO named after their municipality- Matlhwaring. This young champion and his peers are adamant that if their community is to develop, they need to make it happen for themselves.

Health: On page 56 of the book, Jesse Maart shares how sports has helped him recover from drug addiction and how he uses his story and experience to help others. He also touches on the importance of the media in spreading the word and encouraging others to take part in programmes that can be of assistance. This inspirational story is summed up in these words by Jesse, “I am now more confident with decision-making. As a recovering drug addict, I am no longer ashamed of my past as growth happens every second.”

Active Citizenry: Hlubikazi Sangela’s story is shared on page 89. In an era where service delivery is a myth, Hlubikazi decided that she had had enough of the empty promises made to her people in the rural Eastern Cape. Having read that a community hall was promised to her people on several IDPs in the past few years, she went to her cultural leaders and led them through the necessary local government channels and ended up getting their community hall built and opened. Having started this process of service delivery for her people, she still expresses that she has no desire to become a political leader in her local municipality. Because, as someone once said, leadership is not dependent on the position one holds!

Interconnectedness and Inclusivity: The story of 26-year-old LGBTQI+ Ambassador Duncan Moeketse is shared on pages 128 and 129. The Free State based hero is involved in various organisations which advocate for the LGBTQI+ community as well as other queer and gender non-conforming folks. Duncan says that the aim of what he does is “to promote a human rights-based approach to gender and sexuality, that articulates the rights of LGBTQI+ persons to justice, non-stigma, non-discrimination, health, employment, education, employment and access to government services.”

Youth Economic Participation (YEP): On page 183, Zodwa Manitswana mixes business with pleasure through her tourism company, Braam by Bike. Her business is focused on art, cuisine and history biking and/or walking tours. She believes that the attributes of a hero, which could have contributed to her success, are genuineness and compassion for one’s community, critical thinking and problem solving skills as well as comprehensive leadership skills.

The added beauty of this book is that it not only profiles the youth and highlights the amazing work they do, it also shares quotes from many other young people. Each profile and article was written by young writers and journalists, which in turn also makes them heroes in that they are documenting the history and leaders of their time.

Needless to say, the young people in this book, and others like them, are the true champions- the leaders of today. They are the heroes among us! Who are the heroes in your community? See them, acknowledge them and celebrate them.

You can nominate the youth heroes around at http://www.leadsa.co.za/hero-nomination for a chance to be covered as LeadSA Heroes of the Month/Year. For an electronic copy of the Heroes book, visit the ACTIVATE! Change Drivers website.