Youth Development Lays the Seeds of Possibility

05 July 2022:

Some two decades ago a youth development programme took place leaving a lasting legacy. On the 9th December 1998, the West Coast was home to a youth development programme aimed at almost 100 children from impoverished backgrounds. The South African Navy base, SAS SALDANHA hosted the programme which was initiated by then Sub Lieutenant Claudio Chiste of the Military Academy.

Amongst these children was a young 12-year-old, Jemaff Samuels.

Years later the significance would slowly reveal itself.

Jemaff now a 35-year old family man recalls how he was positively impacted, “At the time I did not think it changed my life. However, as I think about it, it did inspire me to want to live a healthy life. A life of discipline. To be more physically active. I realized that I had developed in interest to join the military or Navy”.


LINED UP AND READY: Youth participants being drilled in the basics in boxing.
The focus was primarily on discipline and resilience. These transferrable skills are relatable to real-life challenges.

Using Youth Development for Social Upliftment

From a social development perspective, Jemaff feels that impoverished communities such as the one where these children come from could benefit from more of these programmes. Poverty is rife with gangsterism ever present.

Jim Rohn famously stated, “You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with”.

Whether you agree that this number is statistically correct, the reality is that we are influenced by our surroundings. According to research by social psychologist, Dr David McClelland of Harvard University, the people who you habitually associate with determine up to 95% of your success or failure. We have the ability to actively construct our environment, rather than rely on chance. Mindset plays a key role. Developing a mindset of resilience and growth is the differentiator.

Although Jemaff did not end up joining the Navy, his learnt self-discipline enabled him to step up when he needed.

Everyday Challenges: Bullying, Gangsterism, Drugs & Murder by decapitation

For many the everyday brutality and challenges resemble a Quentin Tarantino movie. Bullying was a major issue whilst he was growing up, with Jemaff finding himself on the receiving end. However, one day he decided that was enough. He followed a discipline lifestyle of hard training, involving push up and sit ups, increasing his size and strength. He soon became a force to be reckoned with. The bullying stopped.

A second example is illustrated by his actions after he saw many fall prey to the evils of drugs. He wanted more out of life. After perseverance, he successfully completed his studies in IT and Marketing and currently works for Mweb in Cape Town where he resides with his wife and three children.

Jemaff recalls the tough sparring encounter he had on the development programme, which thankfully was an even match. Jemaff adds that his sparring partner for the day, Sakkie ‘Afrika’ Bies suffered a gruesome murder being decapitated by gangsters. The case of Sakkie is sadly not unique. Our environment and what we are exposed to influences us. This leads him to conclude that the community had benefitted greatly from this initiative, emphasising his point for the need to have more such programmes. Another inspirational story is that of Jemaff’s cousin, Warren Raadloff, who also attended the outreach programme. He is currently completing his degree in Mechanical Engineering.


SQUARING OFF: Claudio Chiste and Jemaff Samuels meet up for the first time 24 years after the youth development programme.