Encouraging youth to dream big

Former junior mayor at the City of Cape Town, Carl Pophaim.

“It is so important that we as young people always remember where we come from and never forget where we are going”.

These are the inspirational words from the former junior mayor of Cape Town, Carl Pophaim.

The Tatler caught up with Carl, 18, as the country celebrates Youth Month in June and ahead of Youth Day, on Thursday June 16, which this year marks 40 years since the 1976 student uprising.

After matriculating from Pinelands High School with distinction last year, Carl decided to work towards obtaining his Bachelor of Social Science degree, majoring in politics and history, at the University of Cape Town (UCT).

“I believe my greatest achievement has been to help everyday people improve themselves or their surroundings,” he said.

Serving as the junior mayor of the City of Cape Town was not his only accolade. He was also vice-chairman of the Cape Youth Chamber of Commerce, youth policy facilitator for the Independent Electoral Commission and was awarded the LeadSA youth hero award for his contributions to improving young women’s health and sanitation.

The list goes on and includes advising youth policy for the Harvard Training Institute of South Africa.

When Carl is not out doing community work or getting involved with political affairs, he thoroughly enjoys reading, debating, hiking and having a good laugh.

Carl is a true people’s person, fun, talkative, helpful and a problem solving guy who will always make every effort to ensure people around him are okay.

“While I can admit I can be slightly impatient to get things done, I am also one to just sit and talk to people and listen to any issue they may have to assist them,” he said.

Talking about Youth Month, which means a lot to him, he said it is a reminder of how he needs to always appreciate the hard-fought for freedoms that he enjoys today.

“Hector Pieterson and Solomon Mahlangu are just two examples of many people who have died for the betterment of my generation and for that, as a youth, we must always be grateful. (Youth Month) is a constant reminder that the youth of today have an imperative role to play in society, that we have, in fact, taken up the baton to continue the legacy of the youth of 1976 in creating a truly open and fair society. Youth Month is an indication to me, South Africa and the world that we must never forget the value of youth and that as a people we must constantly work towards developing our youth to ensure the sustainability of our nation because our youth is the future,” Carl said.

He considers himself as an activist and someone who was born to be a public servant, so to have the opportunity to serve the youth of Cape Town as the junior mayor was truly an “honour and a blessing” for him.

“Being able to assist and change the lives of so many youth really ignited a fire in me and, in fact, always motivated me to do better,” he said.

The greatest highlight for the former junior mayor was initiating the Femme Kits Project, which provided personal hygiene supplies such as sanitary towels to Grade 12 female matric pupils to ensure that they could go to school when they had their period – aiming to ensure the right to human dignity and education of these young girls who are the future mothers of the nation.

While completing his degree is fundamental, he does not intend for it to be an obstacle in what is his passion, so he will continue to help young people across the city as well as through his business which trains young people in data and electronics, and will be consulting for various NGOs and organisations on youth development.

Most recently, the South African National Civics Organisation (SANCO) has engaged Carl to take one of their newest programmes to young people.

“If I have it my way, it will always include me working with people, especially youth on the ground,” Carl said.

“I believe that education is the key to the prosperous development of South Africa. I would, therefore, within the next six years, work towards a doctorate in education so that I can work to create policy and systems that will effectively benefit the country, within the next five years. I hope to be a public representative on either municipal or provincial level so that I can ensure that policy gets put into action and to create a mass social change,” Carl said.

He is also currently busy registering his own NGO, the Yes Youth Can Network, which aims to develop youth leadership skills in disadvantaged areas.

Carl encourages youth to be positive about the future.

“We have a mighty task to ensure the greatness of this country, all of us with a role to play. I believe we can deliver hope to Cape Town and South Africa, let us never forget it is the idea that I am my brother’s keeper and I am my sister’s keeper that makes this country work. Together we can and will move South Africa forward,” Carl asserted.