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The Character Company – raising great men

by Luqmaan Rawat
The Character Company is aiming to help children become great men to create a better future for all
Photo The Character Company

South Africa – A child’s life from childhood to adulthood depends on the type of role model they have. There are many children who grow up with an absent father which tends to lead them down a dark and dangerous road. One organisation aims to change this and provide a role model who children can look up to.

Statistics tell us that 70% of children grow up in single parent homes with four out of five of them not having a positive role model. The Character Company aims to change that. Jaco van Schalkwyk, The Character Company Founder and CEO, believes it is vital for every child to have a role model in life. Children are moulded from a very young age and having a good role model can have a very positive impact on their lives.

“It’s important that we, as men, play a role in that space so that we can mentor young boys. So they can become the best versions of themselves and in that space create a better environment. Create a country where it’s safe for women, children, and men. I think it’s important that we understand that we have a big role to play in that.”

The impact of absent fathers on children’s lives

Having an absent father can really impact a young boy’s life. Although a girl’s life is also impacted, van Schalkwyk believes it has a far more devastating impact on a boy. A young boy can only ask certain questions from a man whereas a girl has her mother.

“For a boy there’s some very specific stuff that they need to know. There’s stuff growing up that my mom can’t help with. These questions they have that they would not feel comfortable asking. As a boy I need to understand my identity, I need to understand my purpose, I need to understand my role in the family structure. Where do I fit in, what am I supposed to do. The moment you take that away, the moment that question is not answered you start taking that question to the whole world.”

This is where the problem begins for young boys, explained van Schalkwyk. With no one at home to give them a proper answer they go out into the world to find one. They seek answers from their friends, girlfriends, and society. These people might be going through the same thing as them and the answers they get might not be to their liking. This can cause adverse effects.

“That then builds on frustration. One of the things we teach our boys in The Character Company is that you are in charge of your emotions. You can’t help getting angry at stuff. That happens but you have total control of what you’re gonna do with that anger and how are you going to play out with your emotions. That’s important. If we can teach a young generation that they have to take control of their emotions, then we start changing the narrative and we start making a difference in the way that we act.”

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The ways used to teach young boys to be better

There are many ways to teach a child. Van Schalkwyk believes on using a value system and educating a child from as young as five years old. The belief is that by getting them to see the world on a value system, it will help to create a better society.

“We understand that this is a long-term issue. It was created over a long time. We address it over a long time. This is a long-term process. You’re not going to change this overnight. You have to really apply long-term thinking around it. It is focused towards boys who are adventurers and explorers. It’s not lecture formats, it’s not classroom style stuff. It’s really exploring the heart of that boy.”

It’s all about finding the best version of that child. It is all about committing to helping that child. They want to instil the values of commitment and accountability.

The activities of The Character Company

The Character Company meet the kids once a week. It is a small group of five boys. They have various activities they partake in but one condition is that it must be outdoors. No technology is allowed. The boys are meant to be one with nature and involved in adventurous things, explained van Schalkwyk.

“We try and keep this active stuff. This could be going to a park and play ball or go cycling or rock climbing or whatever. It’s just important that we find something where the boys get the opportunity to get some fresh air and some sunlight and just have a social interaction.”

In Gauteng the boys go camping at least twice a month. They have different campsites as well as using other people’s backyards. It is all about coming together and the adventures are all about reinforcing the relationship between the boys and their mentor.

On these camping trips the boys are made to do chores, take part in activities which teaches them some sort of responsibility. It helps to build their character and who they are.

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Finding mentors for the children

The toughest part for The Character Company is finding men to fill the mentorship role. Van Schalkwyk explained it is easy to find children with no fathers. The organisation is not only for children who have absent fathers. Van Schalkwyk has fathers who are mentors, and their children are also enrolled in the organisation.

“Dads that get involved in our program as mentors, if they’ve got sons, their sons must be on the program. We’ve got dads whose boys are in their own groups. We’ve got dads on our program as mentors whose boys are in other mentor’s groups.”

At the end of the day, the objective is to help young children become the people they need to be. Although the process is a long one, there is hope the effort will produce a better society for all in the future. A society with men who have morals and values is a safety that will succeed.

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