Keep 'Em Safe deals with drug and substance abuse in South Africa

So there you go - in the blink of an eye and with little apparent effort, I am now firmly ensconced in the role of project co-ordinator for the Keep 'Em Safe campaign in Stellenbosch.

The goal of this (hopefully) momentous event is to provide disadvantaged local communities with pertinent information around the issues of substance abuse - but in a way that's both fun and engaging to help people remember the key messages.

These include how the rehabilitation process works and how families can support relatives to stay clean post-rehab - which is a key factor in them making it, apparently.

So rather than just hold yet another dry, dreary old seminar somewhere that probably no one would turn up to anyway, the idea is to put on a lovely, lively, visual educational theatre production in the heart of the various communities that could benefit, courtesy of a guy who, luckily, specialises in just that area.

He not only writes the plays himself, but with the help of miscellaneous colleagues also puts them on too so he's a real find.

Because the point is to try to speak to people on their own terms and using their own language/slang rather than the often-impenetrable jargon of care professionals. It's about getting the message across using music, dance and, most importantly of all, possibly, humour.

This spectacular would then be followed up by workshops and other interactive events, and hopefully leave some kind of sustainable legacy such as an am-dram, singing or sporty-type group to give former users something meaningful to focus on and support them in their attempts to stay clean.

And (somewhat ambitiously) the aim is to put all this on by the end of September, during school half-term. Scary, especially as I'm the one that's supposed to be leading the organisation of it.

While I may been described as a good organiser in the past (or was that bossy? Can't remember now), I've not done anything this ambitious before - and beyond the odd glass of wine too many on a Friday night sometimes, I can't say I'm a huge expert on substance abuse either.

Philanthropic madness

But nothing ventured, as they say. And I signed up for it after all. In a moment of philanthropic madness, I went along to a networking meeting a couple of weeks ago (the manager of our B&B kindly got some friends of his to take me along) with the aim of offering my voluntary services for the good of mankind. Or whatever.

It was called Abba (not the pop group though, I hasten to add - it apparently means "support" in Afrikaans slang) and is the kind of initiative that anyone promoting joined-up government would be proud of.

Basically, it comprises a breakfast meeting, held on the last Friday of each month, to enable care professionals, charity workers, members of the police and the like to get together, share ideas and see how they can work together for the betterment of the community.

The format is like AA though, which was a bit disconcerting - "My name's Cath Everett and I'm a journalist" kind of thing (although post-Leveson, that could be the way things end up going in the UK too).

Anyway, a woman called Priscilla from the Rupert Foundation, which was set up in Stellenbosch by the now-deceased Afrikaans multibillionaire entrepreneur and conservationist Anton Rupert to promote education at all levels, asked whether anyone would be interested in a substance abuse conference.

She queried my interest in being project coordinator, said she'd be in touch - and lo and behold, a few days later, she was.

So we had our first meeting last Friday, which included a couple of social workers and a very dynamic community mental health nurse, whose idea it was in the first place to try to plug the information gap by using performance and the like.

I'd be really interested to hear whether anyone else has ever been involved in something similar that we could possibly nick ideas from. Or whether you have any bright ideas for promoting community involvement, particularly at this kind of performance level?

Or whether there are any lovely games/activities/content etc that we could use in our workshops to encourage people to talk/discuss/buy into the whole thing?

It may only be early days, but any contributions/suggestions would be gratefully accepted at


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Cath Everett is a resting journalist who has written about business, technology and HR issues for over 20 years. She recently moved from the UK to South Africa with her husband.