Johannesburg, 24 February 2017
Honouring “Mamma Loff” – for giving so many youth offenders hope and skills to build a new life
Most of us are born with ordinary means. Few turn the ordinary into the extra-ordinary. There is greatness in that. Using the simple, ordinary abilities you have to change what seems unlikely or impossible, into reality. June Loff did exactly that in her work as a correctional official and in her personal life as mentor to youth as a President’s Award Leader. Sadly, June passed away on 27 January 2017. She will be missed by all those whose lives she had affected in a profoundly positive way.
“June was a volunteer mentor working with young offenders as an Award Leader in The President’s Award (TPA). A programme, affiliated to The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award, which empowers young people between the ages of 14 and 25 by providing a balanced, non-competitive framework for self-development that will increase their self-esteem and enhance their capacity to achieve in whatever context they find themselves: enabling them to become responsible, active citizens within their communities. June was the most dedicated, passionate, incredible Award Leader. She guided many youth offenders through all three levels of The Award Programme and significantly impacted many young people’s lives. She treated those boys like her very own sons. We always loved our site visits with June and her boys at Brandvlei Maximum Correction Centre. Our hearts are heavy as we remember this very special lady with fond love and happy memories.” said Lara Kruiskamp, CEO of The President’s Award.
In 1986 June Loff joined the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) and started her 30 year career at Polsmoor correctional centre. June became a President’s Award Leader whilst working at Polsmoor Medium Correction Centre. In 2007, she was transferred to Brandvlei Maximum Correction Centre.
Her memorial service was held at Brandvlei on the 2nd of February 2017. Reginald Volminck, Supervisor: Education at Brandvlei, paid a moving tribute to June saying, “The name June Loff is synonymous with The President’s Award. Her connection with TPA started in Polsmoor and when she was transferred to Brandvlei, it was a huge loss to Polsmoor, but Brandvlei gained much. TPA was her calling and passion in a male dominated environment.”
June was bold in the way she led the President’s Award Programme in the centre, acting not only as a mentor to all participants, but also a mother to all those she worked with, guiding offenders to learn from their mistakes. She was determined to carry on and make a difference, fully committed to their rehabilitation.
“June meant a lot to the inmates. She really cared about them and always had an ear to listen and encourage them. She was dedicated to her work to making sure that inmates were better people when they stepped out of the prison doors. She ensured that they were well equipped to make better life choices and she did not focus on their crimes, but on their potential. The rehabilitation process was very important for her and she turned the lives of many around. She was their other mother,” said Volminck.
Jason Coldicott, an inmate who participated in the President’s Award Programme under June’s guidance at Brandvlei, wrote the following reflection on the impact she had on his life, “I am so different from who I was and when I look back, that transformation is incredible. But, this is not something I could have done alone. It took one person’s unwavering belief that I was a better person to unlock that potential in me. Ms June Loff was that person. Her commitment to the people that society cast aside, her ability to look beyond our flaws and fears made her a force for change that we should all aspire to. I would not be where I am today without her strength and belief that there is good in all people. She may not have saved my life in the traditional sense of the word, but there is no doubt that I owe her my life.”
Gail Brecht, Programme Manager at The President’s Award, worked at the DCS Western Cape Regional Office when June first became an Award leader. At the memorial service, she reflected how, when June had her first group of Gold recipients, there was a TPA event where these inmates would be in the presence of their Royal Highnesses, The Earl and Countess of Wessex, and the late Madiba. June wanted her Youth Participants to be dressed for the occasion and approached the DCS WC Regional Office, but was told that there was no budget available. June used her personal funds to hire suits and gold ties so that these young people would look their best.
“Most of us would have settled on the fact that there was no money, but good enough wasn’t good enough if June knew it could be better. It wasn’t about the suits and ties, but about their dignity and self-worth as young people who chose to change their lives around. She did not see them as “tsotsies” or “bandiete”, but as her own sons,” said Brecht.
When June was transferred to Brandvlei in 2007 and was placed at the maximum centre, she introduced the President’s Award Programme there. For most of the past decade it has been the only maximum correctional facility in South Africa implementing the President’s Award Programme. During this time June enrolled 249 inmates into the programme with 102 Awards being issued. Youth Participants are required to fulfil a number of set criteria that are aligned with the standards of this international Programme to receive Bronze, then Silver and finally Gold Awards. Not all Participants make it all the way through, even to receive a Bronze Award. June’s completion rate of 41% is higher than the average completions nationally and internationally, not just in correctional centres, but schools and community groups as well. It is particularly impressive that she achieved this within a very limiting structure and challenging environment.
“June changed our own perception of what can and should be done for all young people in correctional centres. She inspired international visitors and played a key role in motivating the roll out of The President’s Award in correctional centres in many other countries,” said Brecht, “We will not just remember June for her outstanding results on paper, but also how she embodied everything one can dream of in an Award Leader. She had unparalleled commitment and unequalled passion for youth development. What seemed impossible became a reality when June put her mind to it. Her deep love and concern for those young people was the driving force in her life.”
June did not just implement the Programme in Brandvlei maximum, but took The President’s Award into her community and started working with a small group of young people where she lived. In December last year, less than two months before passing away, June was actively involved in guiding and supporting the roll out of The President’s Award at Wakkerstroom maximum correctional centre.
One of the young men June mentored in her community, Bonga Ntunta, said in his tribute that he struggled, “finding the right words to describe Aunty June, because how do you describe an angel. … She was a mother not only to her own blood, but to any young child she crossed paths with. She changed not only hearts, but lives. Aunty June made me a better person. It’s because of her that I could find the passion for living and confidence to do things. … She believed in me, she believed in my crazy dreams and encouraged me to reach them.”
Volmick ended his tribute fittingly in saying, “Ma Loff’s life here has been one of service, kindness, unselfishly wanting to create a better environment for everyone she encountered. … We have lost a gem, a workaholic, a team player, a gumboot dancer, a loving person, a mother, a grandmother, a friend, a colleague and a beautiful heart. She had unique character. We will miss her and may her soul rest in peace.”
For more information comment call:
Lara Kruiskamp 082 829 5853 Lk@presidentsaward.co.za
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Standing from left: Marcel Potts, Cyril Daniels, Maurice Da Silva, Jacobus Van Wyk, Andile Nelani, Correctional Services Department Western Cape Award Leader, Riaan Nonney, Conwe Flink ,Xolile Baba, Gail Brecht
Kneeling in front: Lara Kruiskamp, late June Loff, Sidwell Jonas, Pieter Verhoog
About The President’s Award
The President’s Award for Youth Empowerment (TPA) is affiliated to The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award for Young People and is a full member of the International Award Foundation which oversees the Award Programme in over 140 countries globally, with 25 of these being in Africa, and a total of over one million active participants internationally. TPA is a registered non-profit organisation (004-920NPO) with Public Benefit Organisation status, registered with SARS (PBO#930001329).
TPA motivates young people to develop character, discover their purpose and determine their future to contribute towards building a great South Africa. The Award Programme targets 14-24 year olds across the socio-economic spectrum, from public and private schools, children’s homes, correctional services centres, universities, etc. A global framework for non-formal education has set guiding principles, outcomes for young people and impact measures.
Youth Participants progress at their own pace through three Award levels: Bronze, Silver and Gold. There are four sections to the Programme for each level: 1. Skills Development; 2. Physical Recreation; 3. Service to the Community and; 4. an Adventurous Journey. In addition, a Residential Project is required for the Gold Award level. With guidance from volunteer adult Award Leaders, each young person builds confidence by reflecting upon their interests, abilities and ambitions to set themselves challenges.
Issued on behalf of The President’s Award by Stone Soup Public Relations
For further information, please contact Daya Coetzee
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