“If you see something that needs changing – change it!”

Gabriel Pillay returned from his exchange programme in 2017, after spending 10 months as a student at Oakland Mills High School in Columbia, Maryland as a scholar on the Kennedy-Lugar: Youth Exchange and Study (KL: YES) programme. The programme aims to develop leadership skills, new friendships and a better understanding of the American way of life; bringing that change in the students back to South Africa and promoting changemaking in the communities from which they come.

One thing that is stressed is that changemaking starts with yourself, and Gabriel took that to heart. In his community he saw that the environment is often uncared for. He could have written to the papers or to his local council, he could have complained to his family and friends when having a coffee… What Gabriel did was simple, he went out and did something – collecting bags and bags of rubbish and making a difference himself. Gabriel told us “as my Dad says – take any opportunity to be the person you want to be and live in a world you want to live in”.

Like many young people, Gabriel just went out, with no fanfare, and did something; but people noticed and let the office know. We would love to hear what else AFS volunteers are doing, young and old, quietly changing their communities without telling us!