South African visitors come to Yakima to learn about gangs - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

South African visitors come to Yakima to learn about gangs

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YAKIMA, Wash.-- A group of delegates all the way from South Africa were in Yakima Friday, learning about the Gang Free Initiative.

The visit was part of the State Department's International Visitor Leadership Program, designed to give foreign delegates an idea of the issues we face here in America.

The four visitors learned about Yakima's gang issue, but more importantly, what we're doing to fix the problem even though they don't struggle with the same issues in South Africa.

"I wouldn't say there isn't, but I've never heard of gang members serious like this," said Mandisa Mogola, CEO of Gugu Dlamini Memorial Centre.

But they wanted to learn about the problem, and what local officials are doing to fix it.

So, the group sat down with Steve Magallan, a consultant with Yakima's Gang Free Initiative, who says he was blown away when he heard they were coming to talk to him.

"It feels great, because what it does is it validates the effort that the City of Yakima, through the Gang Free Initiative, has undertaken over the past two years," said Magallan.

The delegates say there are many different aspects of the GFI that could be used in South Africa, especially early intervention of young people, trying to keep them out of trouble and on the right path.

"Starting young especially, because it changes, gives children the ability to see that there's something else out there," Nosipho Sithole, a graduate program officer with Student Sponsorship Programme.

And they brought their ideas to the table as well.

"For the ones who are involved, how do you insure that you offer them an alternative? Because if you don't offer them an alternative, chances are that they'll go back to what they've been doing," said Godfrey Munnik with the Northern Cape Department of Social Development.

Ideas that show we're not as different as we might think, even when we are a world apart.

The delegation has already visited Washington DC, Seattle, and Austin, Texas. They have one more stop in Tulsa, Oklahoma, before they end their trip in New York City.

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