Meet the Team: Simangele (Smash) Shoyisa

Smash Shoyisa

Smash Shoyisa

Born and raised in various parts of Jozi, Smash Shoyisa is another one of City Year South Africa’s incredible Site Leaders. Smash served in the 2006 corps, came back for a second year as a Senior Service Leader, and then rejoined the organisation a few years later in 2011 as a Site Leader, which is the position she has held until now.

We caught up with Smash a little earlier and this is what she had to say:

Smash, how did you hear about City Year, and what motivated you to join the organisation?

I was part of an organisation called Youth AIDS in Dube, Soweto. We used to go to high schools to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS. In 2005, City Year came to Youth AIDS to recruit Service Leaders for the 2006 corps, and I was really drawn to the leadership development aspect of the organisation. I wanted to improve myself, and make myself a better leader.

Why do you think that it’s important for young people to commit to a year of service?

So that they understand what it means to be an actively engaged citizen. Programmes like City Year give you different perspectives on ways to give back to your country. People often complain about the government not delivering services, without realizing that they form part of the government. We all have a part to play to make our country better.

What are you listening to at the moment?

The Muffinz  – Have You Heard. I love listening to kasi music, by bands that are unsigned.

What is your most memorable City Year moment?

Participating in Crossing the Line during our Basic Training Retreat in 2006. Crossing the Line is a session that we do regularly across our network at City Year. A facilitator will read a number of statements out to a group, and without talking you have to cross a line on the floor if the statement is true for you, or stay where you are if it is not. It’s an incredibly powerful exercise that illustrates how connected we are in our experiences as human beings. Often when we feel most alone, we are surrounded by people who have gone through similar situations.

Why do you think it’s important that organisations like City Year exist?

It’s easy to answer that question, when I look at how much my life has changed since I joined City Year. I give people the benefit of the doubt now, I’m an active citizen, I understand the importance of voting. Organisations like City Year open your eyes, and make you realise how important it is to give back to your country. How important it is to share experiences with people, to help them become better. People need inspiration. Especially the kids that we work with. They need to know that they are not alone, and that there are people out there who understand what they are going through, and are willing to help.

What’s the most rewarding part of your job?

Seeing the difference that I make in my community. I’m privileged enough to serve in the community that I come from, so I can see the transformation every day. I still run into some of the kids that I served in 2006, who are now in matric, and I can see how much they have changed.

What motivates you?

My family motivates me. The fact that someone has made a difference in my life, motivates me to do my best to make a difference in other people’s lives. The fact that I’m alive and can get up every day to do what I love doing, motivates me. My mother’s legacy also motivates me. I learned to love serving because of the example that she set for me. Everyday I live my life trying to make her proud.

Thanks, Smash!

Meet the Team: Sydney Mathebula

Sydney Mathebula

Sydney Mathebula

Originally from Chiawelo in Soweto, Sydney Mathebula is one of City Year South Africa’s super-star Site Leaders. He served in 2009 as a Service Leader and returned in 2012 to take up his current position. Along with his nine fellow Site Leaders, Sydney is responsible for leading a team of Service Leaders through their year of service, and making sure that City Year’s programme is effectively implemented in one of the ten schools in which the organisation works. It’s not an easy job, but Sydney does it with style and dedication.

We asked him some questions so that you can get to know the man behind the red jacket a little better:


Sydney, how did you hear about City Year and what motivated you to join the organisation?

It wasn’t so much about what I heard, it was more about what I saw, and what I saw was young people coming together to make a difference. That motivated me to want to serve, and play a part in changing the world.

Why do you think it is important for young people to commit to a year of service?

If young people don’t stand up to make a difference, who will? It’s important because the future of our country really is in the hands of young people. We have the power to build or break South Africa, and it’s our responsibility to make sure that it changes for the better.

What is your favourite quote?

“The aim is not to be a man of success but a man of value“ ~Albert Einstein

What is your favourite thing to do outside of City Year?

I am a passionate astronomer and also a bit of a social entrepreneur. I’m working on an innovative business model to fuse my love for astronomy and social entrepreneurship, with a view to hopefully creating jobs and growing people’s interest in the sciences. My company, which is called Five Star Sky, is just starting out, so keep a lookout for big things happening in the near future.

If you could travel to any place on earth, where would you go?

Actually, if I could I would travel to Mars(!), but seeing as those trips are still far off, I would settle for Greece.

Thanks, Sydney!


Thankful Thursday: City Year Alumni

There is a City Year Founding Story called “The Shoulders of Giants”, which talks about our success being reliant upon the foundations laid by previous generations. The story references Sir Isaac Newton who said, “If I have seen further than others, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”

The Shoulders of Giants by Jason Solowczuk

The Shoulders of Giants by Jason Solowczuk

This Thursday, we want to recognise and thank City Year Alumni, from South Africa to the United Kingdom to the United States, who have laid the path for the impact that we are making today. City Year has grown from strength to strength over the years, spreading it’s wings to different continents, and touching the lives of hundreds of thousands of children along the way, and none of this could have been achieved were it not for idealistic young people committed to changing the world for the better.

City Year Alumni: we salute you and thank you for your service during your corps year, and your continued service since graduating. We truly are standing on the shoulders of giants.



Umuntu Ngumuntu Ngamantu. I am a person through other people. My humanity is tied to yours. – Zulu Proverb

The spritual foundation of South African society, Ubuntu involves a belief in a universal bond of sharing and respect that connects all of humanity. Ubuntu is a concept formally recognised by the 1996 South African Governmental White Paper on Welfare as, “The principal of caring for each other’s well-being…and a spirit of mutual support…Each individual’s humanity is ideally expressed through his or her relationship with others and theirs in turn through recognition of the individuals humanity. Ubuntu means that people are people through other people. It also acknowledges both the rights and responsibilities of every citizen in promoting individual and societal well-being.

Ubuntu Hands (Photo: Elliot Haney 2009)

Ubuntu Hands (Photo: Elliot Haney 2009)

Ubuntu also conveys the idea the a person cannot be complete if others do not enjoy full humanity. The spirit of Ubuntu resonates so strongly that if one group within society is denied its humanity, then no individual in that society can fully realize his or her own humanity. The urgency to change this injustice becomes paramount.

We can put the spirit of Ubuntu – respect, human dignity, compassion, and community – to work in our daily lives through our interactions with others, from greeting others as we pass them in hallways or on the street to ensuring that all segments of society are included in social welfare policies so that each person has the means to lead a life of dignity. Ubuntu has the power to help us build an inclusive, respectful, and vibrant community nation and world.

Text taken from City Year’s book of Founding Stories.

Introducing the 2012 Corps

This awesome video, which was shown at the recent National Leadership Summit in Washington, DC gives a sneak peak into the first few weeks of the 2012 City Year South Africa corps.