Junior School of Excellence is Launched

2012 marks the beginning of a new program at United Through Sport South Africa; the Junior School of Excellence (JSE). This is an after-school program based at Isaac Booi, a school in the disadvantaged communities of Port Elizabeth that we have worked with for the past 6 years. Children from the Zwide community are invited to partake in the sports development, personal mentoring, academic support as well as life skills that are offered in this program over a one year period.

From our Mass Participation Program, children are identified for their dedication and commitment to the program, as well as their sporting ability. United Through Sport also works with local sports federations to identify talented children to partake in the JSE. A thorough selection process is done, which includes home visits to assess the situation at home and have a better understating of the family background. At United Through Sport, we aim to have a personal relationship with each and every child in the JSE program to better understand the behaviour patterns and personalities of the children. On a daily basis, the children also receive a nutritional meal in the program. This on its own is an incentive for some of the children not to miss a day’s attendance.

During their year long program at the Junior School of Excellence, these children will have the opportunity to be trained by top sports coaches, play in challenging fixtures, receive mentoring and academic support as well as inter-act with International volunteers who play a big role in boosting the confidence and English skills. The beneficiaries of this program are children that come from the poorest backgrounds in broken homes and go to disadvantaged schools. The JSE therefore provides a platform for these children to be developed holistically as well as be exposed to opportunities they may not have had otherwise. As part of the program, these children will have the opportunity of meeting and inter-acting with some of their local sport role models, who also come from similar backgrounds. This will mean a lot to these children as it will give them hope for a bright future and a drive to succeed.

At the end of the year, a selected number of graduates will move on to the next level, the Senior School of Excellence (SSE), where they will be afforded scholarships to Former Model C schools for their high school career. At the SSE they will receive top level teaching, highly intense sports coaching and they will school with children from a variety of cultural backgrounds. Most importantly their chances of going on to University will rise from 3% (the township norm) to 98% (the norm for former model c schools in this area).

Towards the end of last year, United Through Sport donated a series of encyclopaedias to Isaac Booi Primary School. The donation was a great way of strengthening the relationship with the school. Having such useful sources of information for the children would not only add value to our project, but to the school as a whole. The principal of Isaac Booi, Mr Mtyobo, was thrilled to receive the latest addition to the school library (a beautifully painted container in the school yard as there is not a library facility in the actual school building). It is “normal” school infrastructure such as a school library, school hall and sports facilities which are standard at Former Model C schools but are rarely seen in township schools.. Through programs such as our Junior School of Excellence we aim to afford all children these opportunities, reaching out to the poorest families.

School of Excellence South Africa Camp

Our School of Excellence has our kids busy every day in the afternoons; from life skills to sport, mentoring to extra tuition as well as the weekend matches they regularly play. With the school load and the after school programs they take part in, it would be very easy to just give up but most of our kids show commitment to the project day in and day out!

As the year is nearing the end, it was time to reward those dedicated scholars for all their commitment and efforts to keep the project going forward. An overnight stay at the Cape St Francis Resort organised by Fezulaka Experiential Outdoor Adventure was the reward for the 38 children who had attended 80% or more of the after school sessions. During the year, they had attended a number of life skills sessions and some of these came in handy on the camp; it was great to hear them speak about rip currents from the water-safety and ocean awareness session they attended in July and recycling their cups and paper plates from the environmental session in April. This would also serve as the perfect opportunity for the kids to have their final socialising and relaxation time before the exams and heavy study period. Going with the kids to the camp were our Soccer coach Zolani, our Netball coach Nokuthula and our Project Manager, Spakes.

On arrival at the campsite, the kids were briefly given the rules and regulations of their stay and headed off on a long beach walk. On the walk they were given some general knowledge on the functionality of the lighthouse, they went to see some penguins and ended on the rocky side of the beach where they were exploring and learning about all sorts of sea creatures living under the rocks. By this time the children were very ready for lunch as they had used up a lot of energy on the beach!

After lunch, four groups were formed and each one had to give a presentation with their group name and war cry where a winner was awarded bragging rights! Each group had a pair of drums to use as they wished and were given no boundaries for creativity. Without any doubts, the group that combined variations from traditional to hip-hop moves took the title. The kids had to stay in their groups for the remainder of the camp and shortly after the war-cry’s it was time for their problem solving and team building activities. Their communication skills and logic were put to the test in the different activity stations set up. Once they had finished with these, the kids enjoyed some free time where they played sport around the campsite, composed music to the beat of the drums and just had some time to lay back and relax. They also used this time to read over the stories each group was given. Before supper, they would have to do short plays telling African myths in each story.

In the dark, the kids performed their short stories and once again, the winners were the same group from the earlier competition. The plays were very entertaining as the kids had put in a lot of effort to try and out do each other! After supper, it was time for a short night walk on the beach and through the bushes, where the Fezulaka guys pulled a disappearing act on the kids which got them screaming in fear! With a lot of activity in the day and the early morning ahead, bed-time gave no trouble at all.

In the morning, the kids had to be up early for jogging on the beach and drills on the beach. They really felt like they were in boot camp with them tied up in rope, running around carrying huge rocks and all the exercise drills they had to do! The fact that they could come back after breakfast to try out surfing and sand boarding kept them going! This was also the time they used to strategise getting Spakes soaked in the water as she was the only dry person in the group. First step would be sending the girls to trick her into handing over the camera, phone and sunglasses so the boys could come do the rest!

Indeed, after breakfast they had the time to showcase their non-existing surfing skills, or just enjoy the beach or the swimming pool. The rugby boys also used this time to catch what they could of the 2011 Rugby World Cup Final. Packing up and preparing for lunch, the camp had come to an end. It was a beautiful day and the blazing sun had the kids exhausted from the two days’ activities. The kids enjoyed the time spent at the camp and the coaches felt like 16 year olds again!

“As this is my last year with United Through Sport, the camp was a cool way to end my 4 year old relationship with the organisation. I loved that we were only a stone’s throw away from the beach and I think I discovered my potential to be a great surfer!” Ntsikayomzi Hlekani, Grade 12 United Through Sport South Africa Beneficiary.

HIV Counselling and Testing Tournament

‘Youth Day’ is a hugely celebrated day in South Africa and being an organisation that has it’s primary goal as ‘development of youth’, United Through Sport SA held a HIV Counselling and Testing 5-a-side Tournament at a small town just outside of Port Elizabeth. The point of this tournament was to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS and to encourage HIV counselling and testing.

The 95 children playing on the day comprised of 7 local soccer teams and one local netball team; which were all under the age of 16, with the senior teams being the South African Police Services (SAPS) playing against the local team, Addo Legends. Also taking part in the tournament were our School of Excellence soccer boys and netball girls. The local police and health department were very involved on the day, making it the success it was.

Opening the day before the games was a performance from local traditional dancers which had the crowd amazed as the little boys and girls showed off their talents to the beats of the drum. When that was done, the first round of soccer started.

The community was really giving their support, with the old and the young cheering on. Being spectators was not the only way they were getting involved though; the queues for the HIV testing were getting longer by the minute. The added benefit with the mobile clinic at the field was the nurses were also screening for TB, blood sugar, haemoglobin and blood pressure, as well as HIV testing. Some of the children were busy with our life skills team doing activities from our curriculum, which promotes abstinence and educates about this deadly disease. Condoms were also made available to everyone, encouraging safe sex to the youth.

Our School of Excellence netball team won the junior tournament beating their Addo opponents convincingly. The police team was starting to warm up now, knowing the masters game was coming up after the semi-finals of the junior team. With the HIV counselling and testing still carrying on in the mobile clinics, the day was getting even more exciting and the pressure on the local teams was building up. The SAPS team proved to everyone watching that, once you join the force, you go through a lot of fitness training and used this to press home their advantage and win the master’s game.

The United Through Sport SA boys faced the Buffalos in the final round but could just not play down their talent! They were the winners of the tournament, with a 2-1 victory.

The post-match presentation had prizes for the following individuals: top goal scorer, goal keeper of the tournament, player’s player, player of the tournament and coach of the tournament. The senior team got a floating trophy and bragging rights!

With a total of 74 youth between 13 and 18 years old testing on the day, and 45 between 19 and 35 years old, the day was a success for our first HCT Tournament in Addo. The community of Addo was a pleasure to work with. The event would not have been the success it was, if we did not have support from the Cacadu Health Department, Olive Leaf, the SAPS, the Sundays River Citrus Company (oranges were the order of the day!) and Zola, who co-ordinated all the Addo logistics for us. We look forward to doing some more work with this community, as their appreciation was very encouraging.

Of the 74 children, none were HIV positive and of the older youth, 24% tested HIV positive. This just proved how programmes such as ours are needed to keep the young generation in the HIV-free zone. The community of Addo pleaded us to come back and get their kids more involved in sport. “We are happy when our kids are having fun and learning at the same time, as AIDS is a big problem” commented one of the parents.

UTS links with Historical Johannesburg School

United Through Sport South Africa has recently formed a unique relationship with Jeppe High School for Boys, which has the history of being the oldest public school in Johannesburg as well as one of the top 20 boys’ schools in the country. It has produced some inspirational individuals such as Jake White (World Cup winning South African Rugby Coach). Jeppe has a number of Scholarship Funds, with the Theo Jackson scholarship fund being the link between the school and United Through Sport South Africa.

Through the United Through Sport SA Mass Participation Programme run in the township primary schools and supported by A Chance To Play (ACTP), United Through Sport SA identified 3 young boys to go for the selection process for the scholarship. After a series of tests and interviews, Zolisa Faba, from Isaac Booi Primary School, was the lucky candidate who was given the scholarship.

Zolisa is a 13 year old boy who is soon to be an orphan, as his father passed away and his mother is terminally ill. Up to now, he has been brought up by his grandmother who is extremely excited that her grandchild now has the prospect of such a bright future ahead. With only a year into rugby, Zolisa made the finals for the EP U/13 Craven week, which is a good achievement considering his home situation and level of experience on the rugby field! This is a reflection of why Zolisa was selected, due to his strength of character, his will to succeed and his all round determination, despite his home background, which is what the Theo Jackson Scholarship fund values above academic and sporting excellence.

Amongst other firsts, flying up to Johannesburg for his interview was a highlight for Zolisa, who had never been on a plane before. There were so many aspects that Zolisa struggled to comprehend after his first visit to Jeppe, amongst them the fact that he would be receiving five meals a day (two cooked) as part of the boarding program. Previously Zolisa has had to survive on only one basic meal each day, he excitedly said “This is unbelievable, it shows me that dreams really do come true”.

It is intended that Zolisa will stay in the program for five years, receiving top education, sports coaching and individual support until he graduates at age 18. From here he will be in a fine position to move on to further success in life. Jeppe has a 98% matric pass rate compared to the school Zolisa would have otherwise attended with a pass rate of just 23%.

The scholarship covers all the academic requirements; Zolisa’s school fees, his boarding and food, books and uniform. In addition to this, Zolisa will be receiving individual support regarding him going home to Port Elizabeth every term, extra clothing, toiletries, excursions and pocket money from the fund. This scholarship was established by two brothers, Dale and Craig Jackson, in memory of their late father (who himself was an orphan given the opportunity to go to Jeppe) and it provides opportunities for orphaned boys, boys being raised by single parents or extended family to receive the education and grooming from this school to support them to grow into fine young men.

Jeppe High School for Boys is renowned for its history and its boys giving back to society, so we know Zolisa is in good hands and trust he will make us proud. “It is great for us to be partnering with schools nationally as it means United Through Sport SA is not only recognised in the immediate townships we work in and it creates the chance for our kids to be given greater opportunities”, Nosipho ‘Spakes’ Xapile, United Through Sport SA Project Manager. Zolisa would not have received this opportunity if he had not taken part and been identified by the ACTP supported United Through Sport SA Mass Participation Program.

School of Excellence Girls Win Tournament

United Through Sport South Africa was invited by Imbewu South Africa to take part in a World AIDS Day Knock-Out Tournament, which was held at the Dan Qeqe Stadium in Zwide on the 1st December. The tournament had netball, tennis, basketball and 5-a-side soccer games for U/13s and U/16s.

We had our U/16 netball girls and soccer boys playing in this tournament. There were three U/16 netball teams involved on the day, as well as 4 four U/16 soccer teams from other local schools. Our boys played well but unfortunately got knocked out and did not make the final. They played 3 games and with only one win, they lost the other two matches. The girls, on the other hand, played a total of 3 matches, made it through the finals and were the day’s winners! Having the floating trophy and their medals, the girls felt very proud to be United Through Sport SA girls!

This was a great way of ending the year for the kids, on a high spirit of working together as a team and we are happy that Imbewu SA invited us to take part in this tournament and to raise awareness about this deadly disease.

Noddy Climbs to Everest Base Camp

Nadeem ‘Noddy’ Arshad has completed the impressive feat of climbing to Everest Base Camp (over 6000 metres above sea level) to raise over £500 for our project work in South Africa.

Having spent time working with United Through Sport in South Africa in October 2009, Noddy was inspired to trek to Everest Base Camp to raise some valuable cash for the communities he worked with.

Noddy explained, “I worked with United Through Sport South Africa to help develop and improve the lives of children from underprivileged communities in Port Elizabeth. It was a pleasure to see how mine and other volunteers’ help can go towards improving the health and well-being of these young children. I would like to go back one day and help again but in the meantime, I will do all I can to provide further assistance to this amazing organisation.”

On behalf of all the Trustees at United Through Sport South Africa and the children we work with, we would like to extend a big thanks – bigger than Everest even! – for Noddy’s amazing achievement and all the money he raised!

Launch of the new Soccer Fun Bus

A new project under the A Chance To Play (ACTP) project umbrella (funded by VW Works Council through Terres des Hommes Germany) within United Through Sport South Africa is a real eye-catcher! The colorful Soccer Fun Bus was launched recently with qualified trainers and the necessary equipment on board to visit schools and other facilities in and around Port Elizabeth, offering sport and play opportunities for girls and boys. The physical activities are accompanied by special training sessions for children and young people on relevant topics such as HIV and AIDS, gender equality and self esteem and decision making. The initiative that also has support from Volkswagen South Africa, making the bus available, and the German State of Lower Saxony will reach out to more than 12000 children in 2010.

In recent months United Through Sport South Africa (UTS SA) has already visited some 30 schools in underdeveloped areas and presented different sports codes as part of an ACTP road show. Nick Mould, Director of UTS SA explained, “Thanks to the bus we can now broaden our impact and also visit other schools outside the Nelson Mandela Bay, we can now take our key life-skills curriculum to areas that seldom see any kind of intervention”.

Swaziland Welcomes United Through Sport

Last month our Director, Sam Eve, headed south to see how rugby is making a big impact on the lives of young people in Swaziland as they struggle to come to terms with a worrying HIV/AIDS epidemic that now infects more than 1 in 3 of the country’s population. Read Sam’s Report below:

One thing that struck me about Swaziland was just how lush, green and beautiful the country was. The people also seemed so much happier and less stressed in contrast to those living in the dirty and overcrowded townships of Port Elizabeth from where I’d just come.

However behind the beauty and the smiles hides a much sadder truth. The truth that 1 in 3 of the population are dying of AIDS. Swaziland has now surpassessed Botswana as the country with the highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the world. A staggering 39% of the population are infected with the disease and many don’t even know they are infected. Those that do know often cannot afford the treatment or know where to get it from. Those that don’t know continue to infect others. Cultural ‘norms’ in the country further accentuate the problem. Each year the King of Swaziland takes a new wife. Some men with HIV/AIDS still believe that sleeping with a virgin will cure them. Incest and domestic violence are common place. As a result, women are very much seen as second rate citizens and so the cycle of poverty continues. For young Swazi’s growing up under this black cloud, the future is bleak.

That is why United Through Sport are working with a local grassroots partner called SKRUM who are using rugby to tackle the increasing HIV/AIDS epidemic and promote greater gender equality to young people throughout Swaziland.

SKRUM works by training up to 2 teachers in every primary and secondary school to become rugby coaches. These teachers are given all the coaching resources they need such as training manuals, balls and pumps to help them establish the sport within the school. The teachers are then given information provided by NERCHA (the National Emergency Response Council for HIV/AIDS) and SWAGGA (a charity dedicated to tackling domestic violence against women and children) and guidance from SKRUM on how to deliver this information to their students informally through the game of rugby and off the pitch. Rugby simply provides the vehicle in which to deliver this information as well as an opportunity to develop important life skills in the children such as teamwork, sportsmanship, fitness and self-esteem. The physicality of the game also works in challenging the tradional role of women in Swazi society and works towards breaking down the stereotypes that currently exist.

In my visit to Swaziland I was hugely impressed by the dedication of the SKRUM team and how quickly they have moved the project forward in only a few months. Whilst only in their first year, SKRUM has received interest from over 90 schools keen to adopt the programme. Sport is a major motivator for children to attend school and as such Head Teachers are keen to add rugby to the curriculum.

As more and more schools come on board, it will be possible to develop a schools rugby league bringing the community closer together and re-enforcing the positive values of SKRUM.