The current Mixed Gender League (MGL) at the Health Academy features two new young football stars. In fact, they are the youngest MGL footballers so far. In our picture to the right, you will be able to see 8-year-old twins, Ntokozo and Slindile. You can probably pick them out of their team line-up, standing half as tall as their teammates with football kits a few sizes too big. Regardless, they both have enough heart and hustle on the football pitch to make up for their lack of size and experience- - Ntokozo is even one of the leagues’ leading scorers!
Ntokozo and Slindile have attended the WKU Health Academy for health services and recreational activities for the past 6 months. Ever since their first visit they have wanted to play football in the MGL. Since the MGL footballers complete a sexual health course in conjunction with the football games, the staff select participants who are at least 12-years old. Fortunately for Ntokozo and Slindile, the Health Academy chose to run an MGL for the youth who will stay in the Edendale area for the school break and have allowed them to compete.
Every game day Ntokozo and Slindile arrive at the Health Academy with huge smiles, football socks pulled up over their knees, ready to start playing. Last week, the Health Academy staff had the chance to chat with their number one fans, their parents, who came to cheer on their son and daughter.
Ntokozo and Slindile’s mother told us how thrilled they were about the opportunity to play in the MGL:
My son and daughter are so excited to be playing on the Swallows team this season. The first day of the MGL, my son received his football kit. He was so anxious to show it off. After leaving the Health Academy that day he went straight to his grandmother’s house to show her the kit and tell her about his MGL team. After visiting his grandmother, he came home. It was a raining evening so my husband and I were sleeping. Ntokozo came runnning into our room to wake us, wanting to show us his football kit and tell us all about his first game and how he scored 2 goals. He wanted to know when we were going to come give him support and my husband and I promised we would come to a game. We as parents are very happy about him.
Just another feel good story that is testimony to the impact the WKU Health Academy has on the youth and families of Edendale!
At the end of November and early December I had the privilege to travel to two great HIV & AIDS conferences. The first was the Social Aspects of HIV & AIDS Research Alliance (SAHARA) Conference in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. There, I presented the results of an evaluation of our On the Ball programme in Northern eThekwini, which generated a lot of interest. The highlight of this conference, for me, was viewing a pre-screening of a new film called Inside Story which follows the life of a young soccer player as he tries to cope with the pressures of his career and life, including HIV.
After returning from Port Elizabeth, I headed straight off to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for the International Conference on AIDS and STI's in Africa (ICASA). This was a much larger conference with nearly 10,000 delegates from over 100 countries attending. I presented a 90 minute skills building workshop entitled, Quantitative Methods for Evaluating Behavioural HIV Prevention Interventions, which was attended by about 100 people and was very well received. I have identified that there is a skills gap in statistics within the field of HIV & AIDS research in Africa, and I hope that this workshop contributed to diminishing this gap. The notes from this presentation can be downloaded from our Downloads page.
I benefited greatly from attending this conference, partly because some of the leaders in the struggle against HIV & AIDS were present and I was able to hear a 'big picture' perspective on the epidemic. These leaders included former US President George W. Bush, UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, and numerous other dignitaries. Another reason I benefited from this conference was the chance to meet and network with people from many African countries about their projects and programmes. I made friends from many countries including Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Chad, Côte D'voire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali, Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. I was also able to get to know Dr. Bob O'Neill better. Bob is the Chairman of the Canada Africa Prevention Trials Network (CAPTN) of which we are a member.
It was also my first time to visit East Africa so it was great to experience another African culture. The conference was very busy from dawn to dusk so I didn't have much chance for tourism, but was able to visit a local restaurant, a traditional market, as well as an Ethiopian Orthodox Church.
I want to extend my thanks to CAPTN as well as the sponsors of both conferences for covering my expenses and thus allowing me to attend these two enriching events. I have come back to Durban with a lot of new ideas, energy and contacts to follow up with, and am confident that these will ultimately translate into better programmes for the beneficiaries of WhizzKids United!
The 9th of December was an exciting day for the youth of Edendale as it marked the final day of the school term and the start of summer break. The WKU Health Academy was filled with even more excitement for the youth, as our WKU staff, Edendale community members, and WhizzKids gathered together to commemorate World AIDS Day and reward the healthy behaviour of the WKU Health Academy youth with a Christmas Party.
It remains debatable amongst the youth as to what was the best part of the event. One main highlight of the event was a visit from Martizburg United Football Club. The youth spent an hour performing football drills under the direction of Martizburg United coaches and players. Read more on their visit in our previous blog.
The event also featured three special guest speakers. A young gentleman living with HIV, presented a powerful message on building a healthy relationship with an emphasis on partners getting tested together. Sipho Hadebe from the School of Agriculture, urged the youth to be independent and avoid being lured into making bad decisions based on the three c’s: cash, cars, and cell phones. The final speaker, Nditsheni Mudau from FET College, informed the youth on alternative education options and motivated them to continue their studies regardless of obstacles.
Amid the excitement from the event’s guests, the attendees also enjoyed a delicious, hot meal. The Health Academy staff worked tirelessly in the kitchen starting at 6AM, cooking large pots of chicken and mutton curry and numerous salads for the 400 attendees of the events, including youth, parents, business representatives, and school teachers. We owe a huge thanks to Green Farms Academy and FIFA for their generous sponsorship of the event’s catering needs.
And of course, it wouldn’t have been a Christmas party without gifts! Christmas gifts and certificates were presented to the WKU youth who received HIV Counselling and Testing and utilised the Health Academy sexual health services for the past year. Doctors from Edendale Hospital graciously donated 350 gift bags for the WhizzKids and Martizburg United Football Club gave complementary game tickets.
Despite the overcast weather, it was a beautiful day of celebration amongst the youth and Edendale community, honouring the healthy lives the WhizzKids lead. It was incredibly transparent from the smiles on the faces of the youth and community members that it was a great day. WKU graciously thanks all who contributed to making it a successful event!
Now, it’s time for all in attendance to go forth with the holiday spirit and empower others to lead healthy lives!
On December 9, 2011, Premier League football club Maritzburg United teamed up with WhizzKids United to celebrate its HIV youth programme in partnership with the Edendale Hospital in Pietermaritzburg. The event commemorated the success of the Health Academy and rewarded adolescents who attended the youth-friendly clinic throughout the year and successfully adhered to living a positive and healthy lifestyle. Over 400 guests, including school principals, business leaders and local students, attended our function and contributed into making this an incredibly successful event.
The players from Maritzburg United that joined the festivities were Rheece Evans, Byrone Hendricks, Kurt Lentjies, Kulegani "Chillies" Madondo, Michael Morton and Jabulani "JB" Ncubeni. In addition, goalkeeper coach Ronnie Kanalelo and second assistant coach Ashwin Sutton were also present for the event. The players and coaches not only congratulated the youth of the Edendale area but also provided coaching tips on how to improve their football skills. Sutton supervised all the on-field activity as Madondo, Lentjies and Kanalelo led the dribbling station for the children. Evans and Morton worked on passing while Hendricks and Ncubeni focused on headers.
The team also participated in a ceremony which rewarded the youth for their dedication to living positive and healthy lives. The players and coaches of Maritzburg United handed out certificates, distributed gifts and exchanged hugs and high-fives with the award recipients. Each WhizzKid received a holiday gift bag that included a complimentary ticket to the upcoming December 17th home game against the Jomo Cosmos in Pietermaritzburg. And to everyones delight all attendees were given a complimentary ticket to Saturday's game as well. This event marked the second time this year that the club joined WhizzKids United to stress how football is greatly beneficial for youth development.
The youth of the Health Academy loved Maritzburg United and enjoyed every single moment with the professional footballers. The ability for these children to interact and experience this great group of athletes and coaches in their very own community is what made the event truly special. Thank you to Maritzburg United for not only contributing to the success of our event but also for making a great impact on the children and community of Edendale.
Last week Stefan and I traveled north to Rustenburg to work with our Life Skills trainers and host tournaments for four different schools. A total of 684 children played in our tournaments while a countless amount of students watched daily from the sidelines. Each day presented us with the opportunity to learn more about each school, interact more closely with teachers and principals and have fun with the participating children. But my fondest memories of the week were the moments when the children became fully absorbed with the sport of soccer. In these moments, you could see firsthand the love of the game.
Every morning began with the same routine: organizing groups of teams in a World Cup-like fashion. But, once the whistle blew, the children were enthralled in the action of their games. You could often see bodies colliding when dozens of players attempt headers on soccer balls that were out of reach. Shoes flying off of kids' feet when trying to strike the ball for a goal. Faces grimacing and yells of frustration when either shots were inches away from scoring or goalies missed a key save. However, once goals were scored, then it was pure jubilation for one side and utter devastation for the other.
The intensity only picked up once the knockout rounds began. Due to the heat of the moment and the day, beads of sweat ran down players' heads as many male players took off their shirts and played in just their colored pullover bibs. Many boys and girls alike would forgo playing in shoes and just keep going in either their socks or barefoot; not even thinking twice of playing on dirt surfaces with few patches of grass and sharp rocks. At this stage, many matches were decided by shootouts that showcased those who could rise above pressure and perform in truly clutch moments that led to award-winning play.
Every day, champions were crowned and achievements were recognized. But, you couldn't erase the smiles off of the children's faces. Like all of our tournaments, every child received a medal. But I could feel their enthusiasm heightened even more once I placed a medal around their neck. It was a feeling that satisfied me and validated my work at the end of each day. My colleague and I were exhausted once we returned to Durban from our weeklong trip but we witnessed firsthand the passion that lies within the sport.
A huge thank you goes out to the following: Lekwakwa Primary School, L.D. Matshego Primary School, Rutanang Primary School, Paardekraal Primary School and our Rustenburg Life Skill Trainers (Buang Mokoatsi, Elsie Nolekwa, Moeketsi Sello and Sello Hlongwane).