The Kuyu Project interviewed Tendai Sean Joe: Trail of Hope Foundation Founder, Director, Social Entrepreneur, Aspiring Filmmaker, Biker, Former Streetkid, Friend, Activist, Youths Leader, Writer. He came to South Africa in 2005 and is a role model among South African youths. We talked with him about his interests in working with youth, filmmaking and his use of social media.

Deb: Thanks for taking some time to talk to us at the Kuyu Project about your work. I understand that you're the founder of Trail of Hope Foundation, tell me a little about why you started it.
Tendai Joe: It was a dream I had, considering how I grew up, and all the adversities I faced. I always asked myself, how many other children could be facing the same.
Deb: Who are you trying to reach with Trail of Hope?
Tendai Joe: I am trying to reach the youths, as they are the future. Growing up i faced a lot of stigmatisation because people judged before they understood me.
Deb: I see, and you've been very involved in mentoring youths in South Africa, correct?
Tendai Joe: Yes, I mentor youths in South Africa.
Deb: When you mentor youths in South Africa, is it mostly work that you do in person through youth programs, or in other ways?
Tendai Joe: I do both. I use the Tshwane Home of Hope, a shelter for girls in crisis as my base, as I am a full time volunteer/office administrator. Then I work in partnership with different organizations.
Deb: Where do girls come from?
Tendai Joe: They are from different backgrounds, some are from DRC, some Burundi. For us, a child is a child. Most of them are from South Africa. We also have Zimbabweans.

Deb: How long have you worked with them?
Tendai Joe: I started doing charity work in 2008. I worked with streetkids, but with no strings attached. And then I moved to Cape Town at the end 2008 where I mentored young people, most former gangsters, drug addicts and juvenile inmates. Then I moved back to Pretoria in Aug 2009, I started working with the girls in Dec 2009.
Deb: And this a volunteer position, how do you support yourself?
Tendai Joe: Well I get a stipend, for me its not about living a luxury life, it's about living a basic life. Not because I don't have other things to do, but I wanna experience that.
Deb: Sure, I understand, so do you do any work there about getting out messages through the Web?
Tendai Joe: I basically do the marketing /PR and all other stuff that is technical. I also work with the mainstream media TV/Radio and newspapers.
Deb: Do you also social media for this work that you're doing?
Tendai Joe: Yes, I use social media to communicate about our programmes and new developments. That creates interest in the projects.

Deb: How did you start to realize the power of social media?
Tendai Joe: Well I grew up poor without a TV/Radio or even electricity, but I was always intrigued about computers. So when the World Bank donated computers to our rural school in 1998, I started reading a lot of computer books. And I was mainly interested in the internet. I taught myself how to browse, opened an e-mail address and I started communicating with the outer world. So from there.
Deb: Do you still have that same email address? Just curious.
Tendai Joe: No, I was living in a rural area.
Deb: I think I had a Hotmail address back in 98.
Tendai Joe: It was a Yahoo, so it was closed for being inactive because I would access the internet maybe once in a year.
Deb: What school were you at then?
Tendai Joe: Kotwa Secondary School, in rural Zimbabwe, near Mozambique.
Deb: Ok so your father was from Mozambique? And your mother from Zimbabwe?
Tendai Joe: My father was from Mozambique, yes my mother was from Zimbabwe and I was also born in Zimbabwe.

Deb: The change from rural to urban seemed to be quite difficult for you and your family. I can imagine that this would be challenging for any youth, especially with the rapid changes happening in many urban areas today.
Tendai Joe: Yes, it's quiet challenging - FARM-URBAN-RURAL. Many youths will really find it hard to adapt, because the dynamics are not the same.
Deb: I wonder if youths have opportunities to talk about these issues when they move or their communities change. And does access to computers change the situation any?
Tendai Joe: The change of environment has so many psychological effects, its not about just about access to computers. It's teaching them the importance of IT. Sometimes we need to start with their teachers, because you will realise that a teacher does not even appreciate the importance of a computer. So they won't be there to facilitate that hunger to learn and take advantage of this development. My teachers denied me using the World Bank sponsored computers after I wrote a small fictitious computer virus story. They took me as a threat to the computers. They blew things out of proportion. If they understood computers, they would know, its a process to write such viruses.
Deb: Sometimes educators find creativity threatening in students.
Tendai Joe: Yah, they really feel threatened. Had they known I could be doing what I am doing, they would have had supported me. Most people don't have this courage.

Deb: Now you want to tell stories using film, how did you get interested in filmmaking?
Tendai Joe: I have been writing stories since high school - the small computer virus story I wrote was actually for a short film. So since then. I started reading film on my own. There was a library (donated by the New Zealand High Commission) back in Kotwa, Mudzi, Zim. So I had access to many books. Then when I moved to Cape Town, I had a chance to be on set, working with real cameras, directors and producers, some Hollywood stars. From there I got some hand-on experience, I co-directed one short film but it was never released. I worked with a film student from New York Film School. It's about a streetkid's life from a young boy born to a prostitute.
Deb: From South Africa?
Tendai Joe: Yes, from South Africa.
Tendai Joe: Then he grows up and becomes a streetkid, then a gangster, then he is rescued from the streets and finds a new life.

Deb: So the film you to do is a Mzansi Biker Documentary, correct?
Tendai Joe: Bikers, yes.
Deb: So why bikers?
Tendai Joe: I love bikes, I love taking risks (riding a bike is a risk).
Deb: So why this Mzansi Biker group?
Tendai Joe: I am not part of that group. Its a group of Black Bikers. As biking is a growing phenomenon in South Africa.
Deb: It is it purely for fun this biking group or are they racers?
Tendai Joe: No, ordinary bikers.
Deb: Oh ok, and your Mzansi Biker would be a documentary?
Tendai Joe: Yes ...Bikers…..how they join the different groups.......ethics........dress code
Deb: Do you have some bikers who want to be on film?
Tendai Joe: I have top Bikers, including celebrities, ready to be on film.
Deb: So you're next step is getting the film equipment right?
Tendai Joe: Yes
Deb: How will you release the film?
Tendai Joe: For TV, local TV and I will post on YouTube, just a trailer.
Deb: Do you think the message would be one that an international audience would want to see?
Tendai Joe: No, it's not for international audience, They're wont be that much interest.
Deb: What about film festivals?
Tendai Joe: Yah, I plan to show it in film festivals.
Deb: Ok, that's good, I think there will be more of an interest than you might think.
Deb: This past week in the Twitter feed as part of the UN Week Digital Media Lounge (#UNweekdml) there was some discussion about who has the right to tell another's story. What are your thoughts about this?
Tendai Joe: I think people must tell their own stories, it's more fair that way, because they won't be a perception attached to the motion picture.
Deb: There are organizations that are doing work in empowering people to tell their stories even when stuck in places like a refuge camp.
Tendai Joe: Yes, I know am familiar with this work. The concept is great, but still there are some boundaries created. Just check who and how do people access the needed help. I don't believe in being given stuff, because it comes with conditions. You will see they say, "We want you to shoot about HIV/AIDS, or "We want you to shoot about POVERTY". So, I don't buy into that, I believe in total freedom. With organizations, they usually ask, "WHATS MY BENEFIT?". So it's pretty hard to work under such conditions.
Deb: So would you be interested instead in a local filmmaker's cooperative?
Tendai Joe: That would be great, no strings attached and then I am free to express my views, in my own angle.
Deb: Any other ideas that you want to share the Kuyu Project?
Tendai Joe: Well, I am interested in coding and designing new concepts
Deb: Mobile programming or?
Tendai Joe: Web development for now not mobile. I have a start up I am working on, remember #Osocialbuzz
Deb: Yes, I remember it.
Tendai Joe: It coming together, I have a web designer from London working on the graphics and the basic outline.
Deb: Will it be for only South Africa?
Tendai Joe: Will try it in South Africa and then open up the code for the world. But main market is Africa's 4 large economies: NIgeria, Ghana, SA and Kenya.
Deb: So one last question for you. What do you think teens need to know about social networking and digital media tools?
Tendai Joe: Social media is a powerful tool that anyone can embrace and use positively. With a positive mentality, everyone has the power to make a difference in the world. Youths can also make personal brands.
Deb: I like that idea.
Tendai Joe: Build themselves from scratch to become some respectable and notable personalities.
Deb: Is Twitter one of your main tools for branding?
Tendai Joe: Yes, I have integrated Twitter and Facebook. I am in many social networks. But the main secret is consistency. I am on Plaxo, Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, Foursqure, MySpace and many more. I am just consistent.
Deb: I think that there are more young people across Africa on Twitter than I'm seeing young people in the US young people.
Tendai Joe: There are many in the US, many youths are on Facebook though.
Deb: Facebook is more personal with friends and Twitter more about outward identity here in US.
Tendai Joe: Twitter is for mature people those 25 and above. Twitter offers more freedom than Facebook and they find using twitter as more friendly than FB. They can easily hide their identities and still be part of the conversation. I kind of feel more free on Twitter than any other social network
Deb: Interesting way you look at it, so do I, it kind of funny.
Deb: Ok so this has been fun, I think we have a better idea about you and what you do in your work. Thanks for your time.
Tendai Joe: Thanks for the time.