Changing Lives Through Education And Sport
Editor's Blog: Changing Lives Through Education And Sport
This past weekend, yours truly was invited to a sports gala event in Addo, a rural township outside of Port Elizabeth, where some good Samaritans are using education and sport to change people’s lives.
As someone who comes from a really disadvantaged background myself, as Paterson – my hometown – is just around the corner from this township, I could really relate to the anecdotes shared at this event, but let me first explain how the whole thing came about.
It all started with a female tourist, Martha Cummings, who decided to visit Addo National Elephant Park on a safari and travel the country to celebrate her 50th birthday. She then met a waiter, Mzolisi Moses Nqontsha, and started expressing her interest in the Xhosa language and then asked the guy to please escort her to his township, which he duly agreed to do, provided he got permission from his manager. That was not a problem at all for his manager. Long story short, what Martha saw in the Nomathamsanqa location was nothing short of depilated schools and lack of infrastructure. She then took a conscious decision to play her part in changing people’s lives by collaborating with friends and family.
Today, they’ve renovated a school, donated a computer lab, started a football and netball academy and continue to change people’s lives in the rural community. To top it all off, they’ve organised trials for one of the community’s rising stars, Siphosethu ‘Adebayor’ Niyabo, who is on the verge of signing a professional contract with Argentina’s Premira División (First Division) side, Atletico de Rafaela. Imagine, a rural boy, from a seriously disadvantaged background, who only played in the Cacadu region’s SAB League for United Brothers FC, now being on the verge of flying the South African flag overseas! We’re talking about a boy who was helped by coaches and mentors with soccer boots and everyday needs because of the harsh poverty that continues to reduce black parents’ value. Now that’s what Ubuntu is all about – caring for one another and giving hope where despair was staring people right in their eyes. This is what the non-profit Universal Promise is all about, and I must say I was really touched to hear about some of the projects they’ve already done and those they have in the pipeline for this disadvantaged community. We certainly need more people like these in our communities.
In the week of Human Rights Day, where we commemorate the lives lost during the Sharpeville Massacre, it is very important to remember the people’s right to dignity and doing away with the inhumanity of the apartheid regime. This is also a day where we are reminded of the following important rights: equality, human dignity, life, freedom and security, privacy, freedom of religion, belief and opinion, freedom of expression, freedom of association and a right to education, as enshrined in the South African Bill of Rights.
As someone who has travelled this rough road and knows all about going to school on an empty stomach, wearing shoes with holes to school and being unable to walk properly or kneel down, in case people see the holes in your shoes, I know exactly how it feels to be hopeless and wish to throw in the towel. It took people like Martha to help me realise my dream of making something out of my life, despite a challenging background. However, with a community like Nomathamsanqa and the role played by Universal Promise, these people will forever have a good story to tell. It is for this reason that I decided to dedicate this week’s column to these selfless people who are not just about enriching themselves but changing lives through education and sport. A number of people were also acknowledged for their positive contribution to the community at the gala, which was remarkable and humbling to witness. Initiatives like these are always close to my heart and I would like to invite our readers to please support such community-driven initiatives and let us know about them.
We need more people like Martha, who has since aptly adopted ‘Nobuntu’ as her African name. What are you doing to uplift your community? What are you doing about the young kids who go to school barefoot, without any feeding scheme? What are were doing to plough back to our communities? Why does it have to take people from outside of our country to see these things and take action, when they continue to happen right under our noses? What are other tourists doing to invest in our beautiful country? Guys, it is time we invest in our communities and the future generations because whatever we do now will have a knock-on effect on the future.
I now look forward to collaborative work with these God-sent individuals with Soccer Laduma Supporters Club, as we look to play our part in community development. As tata Nelson Mandela once said, “Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than government in breaking down racial barriers.”