Cape Town - Atlantis, 65km outside of Cape Town, is a thriving community but like many areas closer to the Mother City's urban core it is growing and grappling with the social problems which accompany this growth.
Unemployment, lack of housing, gangsterism and drug use are some of the major problems which plague Atlantis, especially the youth.
One organisation has stepped into the breach to positively impact the lives of vulnerable youngsters in the area.
The 7349 Art Crew, consisting of 25 youngsters, is aiming to inspire others through art and to help children develop their talents in art, music and dance.
Atlantis was established by the apartheid government in the early 1970s as an industrial community for the coloured population of Cape Town and was said to be named after the legendary city of Atlantis that disappeared beneath the waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
The area now has a population of 67 491 with 15 565 households; 39.2% of those households are headed by women.
Named after the Atlantis postal code, the group's founder Carl Erasmus said he saw a need in the community to keep the youth occupied enough to not fall into the trap the gangs set up to recruit the teens and set out to do this using the creative forms of art and dance.
“The group focuses on beautifying areas such as Atlantis and involving the community in the process makes them take ownership of the walls and prevents gangsters from painting their slogans on the walls," said Erasmus.
He said the group first engaged with youth before engaging their parents to assist in exploring their talents. The Crew kept youngsters busy on weekends to keep them occupied and away from gangsterism, and have managed to steer some of the area's youth away from gangs by involving them in art.
“We work in Atlantis as it is our community but we also started an outreach programme to help other communities. We are currently busy helping a school in Tulbagh where we plan on creating educational murals for the learners
“Vulnerable youth always feel inspired and tend to bring their friends to get involved in the programme as it makes them feel noticed and they won't have to join a gang to get attention."
Crew member Emma Jo Arendse said: “When some of the youth joined the group, some had notable behavioural issues but as time went on and they partook in creating a mural for the area, we saw a change in their attitudes.”
The 7349 Art Crew is currently in the process of registering as a non-profit organisation as they see a need to keep the kids occupied positively.
“We also need paints, brushes, pencils, paper and would also like to provide meals to the youth when we do a mural," said Erasmus.
Anyone interested in donating towards the group can contact Carl Erasmus on 063 974 0597 or Emma Jo Arendse on 084 495 7468.
* This piece from part of the Cape Argus’ “Starfish Project“.
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