Youth Month in South Africa – Grace Hammond

Meet Grace Hammond

DOB – 14 March 2001
Birthplace – Cape Town, South Africa
School – Springfield Convent High School
Grade – 11

MM: What does Youth Month in South Africa mean to you?
Grace Hammond: Youth Month for me is an integral part of our society. We as a country must remember and keep in our hearts, the students involved in the Soweto Uprisings, especially Hector Pieterson. As the youth of South Africa we must be mindful of our past and use the tragedies experienced, to shape our future. This month should be a time of education, awareness, solidarity and sensitivity as the image of Hector Pieterson acts as our constant reminder to contribute to our ever growing need for empathy and understanding in our society, country and world!

MM: What is your dream and/or vision for South Africa and the world at large?
Grace Hammond: My hope is for South Africa to develop into the country of our dreams. Without the corrupted and mendacious politicians and individuals clouding the future, I think the country can flourish into the country that our constitution inspires!

MM: What are some of the challenges that you have dealt with as a young person and have observed that young people struggle with in general?
Grace Hammond: The older generations often lack understanding of our lives as youths of South Africa. They are quick to call us entitled for protesting for causes such as the “Fees Must Fall” and “Rhodes Must Fall” movements. Drugs, alcohol, unemployment and the feeling of hopelessness are just some of the struggles facing our youth today. With domestic abuse, unemployment, drug addiction and anxiety and depression rates on the rise, it’s easy to see how the youth feel lost and feel like they have nowhere to turn. The ramifications of apartheid can still be seen in ways like the struggle of previously disadvantaged members of society, and the standards that people of different classes are held to. White privilege has a very prominent influence on all members of society. It can also be seen in the way that the previously disadvantaged parents of students are struggling to pay the ever-increasing price of tertiary education.

MM: What, in your view, could make those struggles or challenges better at a societal level?
Grace Hammond: At a societal level I think we as communities need to be more empathic to the struggles of our fellow South Africans. Take the story of Ashwin Willemse, Naas Botha and Nick Mallett. So often we are quick to label our team mates and colleagues “quota players” or diminishing their hard work and saying “they are only here to fill quotas”. We need to communicate and be open to hearing and being educated by others, because after all, how are we meant to understand each other if we are insensitive and non-empathic to the struggles faced?

MM: What, in your view, could the Youth do about those challenges?
Grace Hammond: I think we are taking our struggles head on. Between petitions, protests and many other forms of protests, we are converting the hardships into constructive movement forwards and starting the much-needed conversations. I think the only thing we often forget when flustered is that violence isn’t the answer. As long as the protests don’t turn for the worst we are okay, but if the government and all the individuals in high offices see us use violence as our negotiator, we may never achieve the goals we set out for ourselves.

MM: What are you most proud of?
Grace Hammond: The thing that I am most proud of is not anything that I have physically done per se but rather how I react to situations. As a child, I never spoke up in class and had bad anxiety which plagued my friendships and school relationships with teachers. After leaving my school environment and moving to Westerford High School for two years, I taught myself how to stand up for what I believe in and I learnt many constructive things there. I grew as a person and even though, for personal reasons, I decided to leave and return to my home, Springfield, I wouldn’t trade the skills and knowledge I learnt there for anything. I am proud of the amount of empathy and understanding I have and I hope to use that to change the world one day! The other thing I am proud of which goes hand in hand with empathy is deciding to stop eating meat. I have been a vegetarian/pescetarian for about a year and a half now and I have never felt better! Although I do become low in iron every now and then, knowing the positive effect my choices have on the environment makes it worth it.

MM: What are your favourite things in the whole wide world?
Grace Hammond:
Dogs definitely! I have 5 and although their barking is the bane of my existence, I love them with all my heart!
Sport! The freeing feeling achieved from hockey, swimming or running is something that I love and often use as a way to calm my anxiety and de-stress. Chocolate! I know it’s unhealthy but it’s delicious as well!
Chicago TV series! Anything, Med, PD or Fire!

MM: In what ways do you intend to contribute to South Africa, Africa and the world at large in the future?
Grace Hammond: I have so many ideas I don’t even know where to start! I’m hoping to study: politics, gender studies, anthropology, environmental and geographical science and maybe psychology or social development too. I want to either be a part of the incredible organisation RADAR at Stellenbosch or be involved at UNASA or Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors without Borders). I would also love to be a part of the world of psychology! You see, so many plans! All I know is I also want to travel up the continent of Africa after studying. I already have my route planned!

MM: Are you excited about the future and what excites you the most?
Grace Hammond: I am excited for South Africa to reach its potential as a country. The amount of love and care that many people have shown for the environment as well as people of different backgrounds, excites me beyond belief! Sometimes when we watch the news or scroll through social media, our perception of the world is skewed. The amount of bad always seems to outweigh the good. However, this isn’t the case in reality. People are fixed in their ways until an issue directly affects their lives, just like the drought in Cape Town. When it comes down to it, a community can come together to bring about positive change. It is motivating for me to know that when we are needed, we can change the world in a positive way!

MM: What is your message to the youth of South Africa and the youth of the world at large?
Grace Hammond: Don’t let the older generations take away the beauty of being young. Just like my dad loves his 80s music, you too can love selfies and snapchat streaks and use slang like “yeet” and “lit” whether it be sarcastic or not! Relish in life and live like there’s no tomorrow. Enjoy every second you have and live in the moment and be happy! A minute of sadness is 60 seconds too long of not being happy. Take your life by the horns and change it to suit you. I know tough times and struggles with parents and school and pressure and friends can feel overwhelming and exhausting but remember, even if you have reached your lowest point, you can only move up!
This is your life and you have control. One thing my psychologist told me after my struggle with anxiety and depression that always stuck with me was the difference between the controllable and the uncontrollable. Use what is in your control and make the most of it to help you prepare for the uncontrollable things. You have no control over how hard the exam will be, but you can study as hard as you can. My last point is to remember to take a step back every now and then. It is easy to become flustered with a storm in your way. Relax and adjust your focus. Use the correct “goggles” to view the situation at hand. Often what you thought was a storm, is actually just a little drip!

MM: What is your message to the older generations, i.e. your parent’s generation and above?
Grace Hammond: Instead of shutting the world of technology, social media and massive change out, embrace it! Embrace the change! Educate yourselves and don’t be afraid to ask for help. I’m sure the majority of your children or grandchildren will be happy to discuss things with you. I know whenever my nana or granddad ask for my help with something I get super excited and am keen to help. The other confusing side of “youth” could be the way we act. Generation X and above individuals are quick to comment on the laziness or arrogance of generations like Gen Z. However, starting much-needed conversations between Gen X and Gen Z about political, economic and social issues in our society, like racism, classism as well as prejudice and bias based on gender identity or sexual orientation, will only make the world a better place and bring us all together!