If my first few weeks here in SA are anything to go by, there’s an abundance of love, culture and friendly faces, something that seldom makes it to the mainstream media in the West; a shame really. From my own previous experiences, discussions on Africa focused on poverty and wide spread disease, occasionally you’ll meet someone who thinks that civilization in Africa consists of a full blown safari in your back garden…I can now confirm that the latter is most definitely wrong!
WhizzKids United’s volunteer house is in Durban, along with our office, however our Health Academy is in Edendale, a township 70km north of Durban. The Health Academy isn’t your everyday clinic, though providing HIV tests, consultation and ARV treatment, we also offer a programme to orphans and vulnerable children that consists of a meal a day, sadly for some of the kids it’s the only meal. On the lighter side of things, the kids come together to take part in a Zulu dance and choir group, arts and crafts sessions, IT learning, sometimes a kick about outside on the concrete “pitch”.
My first week was spent here in Edendale aiding Brian from “Coaches Across Continents” to facilitate his sessions, we spent the week playing a range of football games that in one way or the next related to STD prevention, i’d played each and every one of these drills growing up countless times but never with these particular messages attached them. We all partook in the games (Zulu, English, American, Turkish, Bajan, boys, girls, young & old) and it may sound cheesy but our mutual language was football. The variety of people in our group of 30 wasn’t anything particularly extraordinary but in an instance it made me realize, if these kids could be brought together and educated in something that they would otherwise have no means of reaching, then we would have done half the job and would have given them something that we from the west take for granted; a basic sexual health education.
It’s been an eye opening couple of weeks to say the least, when I look back on the "problems" I thought I had back home and compare them to the eveyday problems the vast majority of people have here in SA, they're minuscule, a mere blip on the radar. I hope I can make a difference to as many lives as possible here, as they've already made a difference in mine. I’ve got a lifetime to make more money however i’ll never have the power to make more time.
My journey to Switzerland was a success and a trip of a life time.
My journey started when I was in Durban, this was going to be the first time leaving South Africa to go to a foreign country like Switzerland. My longest flight was 10hr 40min, this took me from Johannesburg straight to Frankfurt, Germany; which was a very tough flight as I was alone the whole way and had no one to talk to. None the less I arrived at my destination safely, and met a few people along the way and I made a friend who is named Tatenda from Zimbabwe, we were in the same camp along with another 30 and we all came from different countries around Africa and we spoke different languages from 16 different places.
In the camp on the 1st day we had a welcome speech from Mr Wilfred Lemke and he told a lot about the United Nations Office on Sport for Development & Peace (UNOSDP) and the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (UNO MDG’s) which were: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger; Achieve universal and primary education; Promote gender equality & empower women; Reduce child mortality; Improve maternal health; Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria & other diseases; Ensure Evironmental Sustainability; Develop a Global Partnership for Development.
We all use sport as a tool to send awareness to the community or the teens in our own community, it surprising how different sport can send the same awareness and all sports have one or two things that improve our social skills. The 1st sport we all participated in was boxing, lead by BOX GIRLS. Boxing was great and I learnt a lot from it, you always need timing and you must be confident, if you want to send awareness through boxing you can and it’s very different from soccer because they are positions that teach you how to balance in life and how to overcome obstacle. I would like to implement boxing in our organization because we have a boxer, and just to use the simple boxing not the professional boxing skills would be good. We were also lucky to be visited by the FC Basel coach and his assistance team to teach us more about being a good coach, they mentioned a very good rule; BEING A GOOD COACH MEANS BEING A ROLE MODEL, and since we deal with the youth we should limit the theory and focus more on making the kids have fun so that they won’t get tired from a lecture, and also have time to relax and play. The UNOSDP Youth Leadership Camp was great, we all did our best in being part of the camp and to have more fun, I learnt a lot and it was really helpful to go to the camp and I will be starting to implement my new coaching skills to the kids in my organisations.
I can still imagine the fun and great learning we had, in my community I will be starting with my new coaching style and see how the kids and the community members react to it and my experiences. I’m really looking forward to showing the Edendale community my new skills, and also to share my knowledge and skills I got from the camp because it nice to share with people your skills or talent so that you would get feedback and improve if needed or get positive response from the community in order to get more people involved.
I would just like to send a word of thanks to everyone who helped me to have a successful journey and a special thanks to the UNOSDP team for treating us all with respect and for including us in everything to make our two weeks exciting and very interesting.
This past week I worked at WhizzKids United. It was in many ways, a sense of déjà vu. You see, WhizzKids United was the first program that I was partnered with when I started at Coaches Across Continents in 2010. Since then, I have worked for CAC in a dozen different African countries. But it was great to get back to WhizzKids United and see familiar faces like Siphelele, Marcus, Stefan and Tom and to see the progress that has been made since my last visit.
When last I wrote about WKU, I mentioned the newly opened Edendale Health Academy and the extremely high HIV rate in KwaZulu Natal. However WKU has made tremendous strides with their fully functioning, adoslescent-targeting HIV counseling and testing center, actively counseling and treating over 450 patients. The center doubles as a football training center, with a modest asphalt pitch (that will soon become a brand new FIFA Football for Hope Center) with life skills trainers actively engaging the youth in games that teach about healthy HIV behavior and encouraging youths in Edendale to utilize the health center to their full advantage.
This past week, Coaches Across Continents again ran a training session for the life skills trainers, enabling them to improve their own coaching abilities as well as provide a football for social development curriculum. This expanded curriculum will serve WKU well when their new FIFA FFH center comes online in the next calendar year.
Overall, the WKU Health Academy is making great strides towards being a model for the rest of the country and African continent to follow. They will soon have a state of the art training ground, offices, changing rooms, and educational meeting rooms, alongside their already operational Health Academy. This serves as a hub for the youth of the community to hang-out and to promote healthy decisions and lifestyles in order to combat the staggering statistics that are pitted against them. If the past three years have been any indication I believe that WKU and Edendale will continue to show KZN, South Africa, and the world how to combat this epidemic.
It has been a bit calm around WhizzKids United the last month, but does that mean nothing is happening here in Durban and Edendale? Absolutely not! It has been rather calm because I have been in Australia running the Sydney Marathon to raise funds for WKU and everybody else was too busy to post anything on Facebook or write something on this blog. But now I am back and you can be sure to get all the information you deserve.
October is the month when we are celebrating Africaid's 10th birthday and also Marcus' 10th anniversary in Africa. That's right, it has been 10 years since Marcus left London to move to Ghana and further to South Africa. It has been a great journey and more importantly, it has been a life saving journey for thousands of young peope across this beautiful continent. Yesterday, we came together at the Health Academy to start a month of celebration. A month to remember Marcus' and Africaid's great achievements over the last decade. Marcus has plenty of stories to share with you and we will also hear what some of the people have to say, who supported us over the years. But for now, check out our Facebook page for some great photos from yesterday's celebrations at the Health Academy.
October is also a month of change for our organisation - staff changes to be precise. We sadly had to say goodbye to Flo and Johanna last month, who have finished their voluntary services with us. Both had spent eleven months in South Africa. Also Busi left the Health Academy a few weeks ago to move to Durban.
The new head nurse of the Health Academy is Ntokozo. She had been with us before, then moved on to Edendale Hospital and now she is back at the Health Academy. We are more than happy to have her back.
We are also welcoming six (!) new volunteers in October. The first two have already arrived - Alex Abed from Barbados and Jonny Sasati from Turkey. Both will stay with us until next year. Tomorrow, we are expecting Markus Bensch and Julia Horvath to arrive from Germany. They will stay with us for one year. And later this month we have two new volunteers coming from the UK, Alice Ford and Ben Edwards. We are keeping our team young, fresh and multi-cultural!
You can be sure to hear from all our new staff at some point here on this blog.
Cheers everyone and make sure to celebrate 10 years of Africaid with us - wherever you are in the world.