A warm winter morning on Wednesday 27 July saw a bus full of 40 children from Luzuko Pre-School pour onto Rhodes University’s Kings Sports Field, making their way towards the soccer balls and their coaches for the day waiting for them by the goal posts.
Two students from Botha House volunteered to organise the event for the children as their way of trading 67 minutes in honour of Nelson Mandela day, which evidently did not go unappreciated. Pamela Sandi, one of three Luzuko practitioners, says she is always grateful for days such as these because the children are exposed to opportunities they will not find in the location. “These kids are from very poor families as the community that surrounds the school is poor. Some of them are sick, they have HIV, some of them are from homes where they cannot have something to eat, but we are here to accommodate them,” said Sandi.
With sport in general, there is always an emphasis that should be placed on developing children from a grassroots level. However, it is difficult to achieve this when schools like Luzuko are not supported by the relevant structures. “It’s important [for children to play sport at a young age]…because then they can do it in the future to see ‘maybe I want to be a rugby player’ or ‘maybe I want to be a soccer player’, just to give them the opportunity,” explained Sandi.
Whilst Luzuko is managing on their existing finances and structures, Sandi is adamant that “we need help, any kind of help. We don’t even have soccer balls.” Sandi has taken several trips to the Department of Sport, Recreation, Arts and Culture in Grahamstown, as well as sent them emails, about being provided basic sporting equipment for the children. She has yet to hear back from them: “I don’t know what else to do because this department does not do enough [for people like us].”
Lebogang Sonazi, the Community Engagement representative from Botha House that helped organise this event, said that people need to understand fully what “giving back” means: “Sometimes you have to give without expecting anything back.” An avid soccer player himself, Sonazi thinks that incorporating sports such as soccer into children’s school days will help them stay off the streets.
In terms of how the community can help, Sonazi thinks that “there is no need to have more than one soccer ball…so if you could donate to those in need then we could achieve a lot as a community.”
Photos and words by Gabi Bellairs-Lombard