Lusanda Gwayi is in the business of making dreams come true. By Buhle Mweli
What started out in 2011 as just a church project for Lusanda Gwayi, a business science law student in Cape Town, ended up taking on a life of its own. Together with her friend Laurian Nortje Kabongo, Hectic Nine 9 presenter on SABC 2, Lusanda built an organisation encouraging high-school students to dare to dream. True to the aim of their admirable cause, they call it Dream Factory and have roadshows that serve to inspire and motivate disadvantaged teenagers.
Lusanda is only 28 years old, so it is quite fascinating to see just how she manages to juggle running a non-profit organisation (NPO) and her university studies. She has just completed her articles and will soon be a qualified attorney, but her heart has been so completely immersed in Dream Factory that she wants to go into youth development full-time rather than continue on with her career as an attorney. And looking at the huge success of her current organisation, it’s not difficult to see she’s probably on the right track with this one.
Because there are numerous initiatives aimed at the same age grouping, all gunning for the same sponsors, some, despite being well-meaning and much needed, end up having to shut down due to a lack of funding.
‘The saving grace for our NPO is that our approach to making dreams come true is not about skills development, something that we have seen many times before,’ Lusanda explains.
The right start
‘I remember doing a church project with Laurian and she spoke to young people in our community,’ Lusanda says. ‘They were so captivated by her because she is a celebrity and also because of her personality.’
The young graduate noticed that education and information was not as easily accessible to these young people. Lusanda and Laurian decided that they would embark on a journey together that would later see them partner with 40 schools in the Western Cape to empower teens and inspire them to dream.
Ways of working
Lusanda and her team have developed three steps to reach their main goal of harnessing dreams. They embark on regular roadshows where young artists or professionals are invited to partici-pate. They do activations throughout the 40 schools they’ve partnered with that usually consist of theatre, music, edutainment or motivational talks. And their message is always about inspiring young people.
The second step is a call for inspired teens to write letters detailing their dreams. The letters are then collected in a ‘dream box’ and the 20 students who write the best letters are selected to attend a workshop that gives them access to professionals in their desired field. The students get the opportunity to experience ‘a day in the life’ of a professional in their field.
Most letters are quite career-based. Some scholars, however, have very modest dreams, such as getting proper supplies of stationery for schools – in this case, the organisation managed
to secure a year’s worth of supplies for the scholar.
‘Dream Factory has opened me up to so many needs that teenagers have,’ Lusanda says. ‘We come across kids who’ve been through a lot and many of them do need counselling.’ Because none of the people in Lusanda’s team are professionally equipped to handle such needs, the young achiever links them to leaders in her church.
‘It’s difficult to measure success with an organisation like this one,’ Lusanda reflects. ‘How exactly do you measure inspiration? You just have to rely on the testimonies of the kids that we help.’ But one of their latest success stories includes The Bold and the Beautiful actor Texas Battle, who recently made South Africa his home. He gave two of the Dream Factory workshop attendees full scholarships to study at AFDA (The South African School of Motion Picture Medium and Live Performance). And another learner whose dream was also rooted in acting saw it come to fruition when, thanks to the organisation’s big effort to secure an audition for her, she landed a role that will see her travelling to the US.
Lusanda says that, even though she first developed the NPO to encourage learners to dream, her own dreams also seem to be coming true as her Dream Factory continues to grow, care and help make a difference in the life of learners in need.