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A rural revolution: youths transforming their communities

It is a common reality tied to the coming of age in South Africa that a young person from a rural area will move to the big city and seek better opportunities. While some embrace this new journey, for many, leaving their families for unfamiliar and challenging environments is a tough choice. 

Those who choose to stay behind then face a different challenge – they need to be extra resourceful and entrepreneurial to carve out successful paths for themselves. It’s these determined individuals, like Katlego Replay Ndlovu, who become true gems to their communities.

Hailing from Hazyview in Mpumalanga, this young hometown hero is leading an infotainment revolution showing us that positive change can blossom within rural areas.

Replay, also known as DJ Reeca, is a social entrepreneur and a graduate of both the Bridging Year Academy and Facilitator Academy of Good Work Foundation (GWF). Through a creative venture, he and his team are transforming the landscape of community infotainment in the small towns of Mpumalanga.

Replay is the founder of Blue Hazy FM, an online community radio station that is not only a platform for community engagement, but also a symbol of local pride.

The idea of starting a radio station was first conceived during his time at Radio Bushbuckridge, where he learned about using broadcasting to connect and empower people. This experience served as motivation for him to create a radio station that would resonate with the young people in his community and beyond.

Blue Hazy FM started broadcasting in 2020, right in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, operating initially from a garage. From its humble beginnings, the station quickly gained popularity and attracted an ever-growing listener base. According to Replay, to date the station has been able to connect with over 162 000 listeners from around the world and requires as little as 100MB in data to stay connected for an entire day.

Blue Hazy FM’s content is as diverse as its audience. People young and old tune in for its offering of current news, music, talk shows, educational programming, cultural and arts programmes, and more. The station also plays a role in social issues, giving a voice to topics of public concern such as water scarcity and mitigating service delivery protests by sharing information about upcoming projects and opportunities.

For Replay, fighting for his vision to come to life and stay alive was not without challenges, including limited funds for equipment, finding a permanent venue and dealing with connectivity issues. “As a former student of the GWF’s Bridging Year Academy, I approached the CEO and Founder of GWF, Kate Groch, and shared my vision. She saw the potential in Blue Hazy FM and extended her support,” he says.

Kate says she was especially impressed by how Replay and his team weren’t dreamers without action – they did not wait for funding or sponsorship, but rather made the most of whatever technology they could get their hands on and started on their mission. 

“I was immediately drawn in by the passion of these young people who are not only innovative but community-minded, too,” she says. “They started something and were at a stage where they were looking to grow it. As GWF our mission is to then get behind it with the energy and expertise that can help take it further. Even with our learning programmes, our goal remains the same – we identify potential and then provide the support and guidance that a young person may need to flourish.”

Through GWF’s support, Replay was connected to a network of like-minded business leaders like Richie Laburn, CEO of Silicon Kruger, a tech advisory company. Richie assisted the station in getting new equipment, advised on business structure and provided ongoing guidance on administration, preparing it for a future where it can broadcast on a frequency of 88.6 MHz that can be accessed through traditional radio.

“When I met Replay I saw an ambitious individual with a talent for media and an understanding of technology. That’s why we, as Silicon Kruger, made available our skills and experience in helping the younger generation from our region who are prepared to make that leap in making digital and sophisticated tech a part of their lives and driving transformation in our local communities through their preferred medium,” says Richie.

As Blue Hazy FM continues to grow, Replay envisions a future where the station not only entertains and informs but also actively contributes to the development of the community. His plans include getting involved in more community outreach efforts through partnerships with other local organisations to support education and social welfare.

“In the future, we would like to have more resources for our community outreach efforts. We want to be able to visit schools and donate uniforms, share information on bursaries, and provide stationery, food parcels and other essentials,” he says. 

“We want to give back to our community in gratitude for the support they have shown our station. They motivate us to introduce more offerings, knowing that these will be supported by the people in our community. Our goal is to facilitate development within our community and hopefully inspire others to do the same.”

To find out more about the work of Good Work Foundation, visit https://www.goodworkfoundation.org/ or email info@goodworkfoundation.org.

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