Is it a bird, is it a plane?...
posted by Matthew Pretty on 22 July 2013
Photo from the workshop in February
Photo from the workshop in February

“Is it a bird, is it a plane…”

While the new Superman film is being enjoyed by millions across the world, WhizzKids United have been working with our own men (and women!) of steel, taking them back to the basics of comic book drawing in an innovative effort to give them a safe environment to share their feelings and combat their life challenges.

Following the conception of the project from our partner Cardiff University, we were able to utilise their expertise to run the sessions, held on the weekend of 23rd & 24th February. Twenty nine children attended the workshops which were run at the WhizzKids United Health Academy and focused on them designing their own comics and individual trees of life. Children were taught the skills needed to conceive characters and storylines, effectively convey emotions through their drawings and use these experiences to represent challenges which they face in their lives.

While these are great skills for them to acquire – and they had a great deal of fun learning them – looking more broadly the workshops allowed them an important opportunity to discuss the critical challenges which they face in their lives, such as their HIV status and how it may affect relationships with their friends. In discussing these issues with other children living in similar circumstances a real sense of trust was established; teaching the children that they were not alone in facing the challenges in their lives and fostering a real sense of trust between them.

The workshops weren’t only useful for the children themselves but WhizzKids United as an organisation. As our CEO Marcus says, “WhizzKids United is all about helping young people. If WKUHA are going to help young people we need to know what problems and what difficulties they face”. Working in this creative and innovative way with the children really allowed us as an organisation to understand the issues which they face and how we can ensure that our services are suitable for them.

The comics which the children drew provide a genuine snapshot of the challenges in their lives, whilst also giving a heart-warming impression of their positivity in overcoming them. The children’s artwork has since been digitally coloured and lettered by an award-winning British cartoonist and is now available to view on our website. If you have not already seen the comics I implore you to take a look at their amazing work at www.whizzkidsunited.org/comics.

Having seen and learnt about the success of the comic book workshops which WhizzKids United held in partnership with Cardiff University earlier this year I am excited to report that I will be taking over the organisation of more upcoming workshops which we will be holding with boys and girls from Edendale in the coming months. I am hard at work at the moment working with our Health Academy team to organise these workshops for the children and ensure that they have as big as an impact as possible. I am delighted to say that Cardiff University have agreed to help us source funding and assist us with these events again, and we are very grateful to them for their continued support. Together we can combat the spread of HIV in Edendale and improve the lives of those infected immeasurably.

Watch this space for more superhero stories…. and maybe some comics as well!

Drogba inspired my internship choice
posted by Mlungisi Khumalo on 8 July 2013
Me (Left) being outrun by my new touch rugby student
Me (Left) being outrun by my new touch rugby student

“Today I am going to teach you all how to play touch rugby,” I gently spoke to the kids. “Can you play rugby?” asked one of the kids who looked at me sternly. It was at that moment that I realised that I had no clue on how to play rugby, but I had watched a great deal of it on TV and understood the basics of the sport.  “Well, I am not very good but I know a thing or two,” I replied nervously.

My name Mlungisi Khumalo and I am a student at the Durban University of Technology. I am excited to be part of WhizzKids United’s initiative of combating HIV&AIDS through the power of sports, football being the main focus. I will be interning at WKU for six months and will be working as a media coordinator.

I remember once reading about the civil war in Ivory Coast and the tremendous negative impact the unrest was causing to the country. An Ivorian footballer called Didier Drogba (former Chelsea striker) came up with an idea of using football to bring peace and stability in the war torn regions of Cote d’Ivoire. Drogba’s reputation as a successful African footballer playing for one of Europe’s finest football clubs made him the perfect candidate to assist rebuild the civil war devastated Cote d’Ivoire. Drogba is now a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Development Program and still continuously advocates for progress and development across the globe through sports.  

I was inspired by Drogba’s story and also felt that I could play my part at WKU in the fight against HIV&AIDS. WKU had an all sports day event in Edendale, Pietermaritzburg, and I voluntarily opted to teach the kids touch rugby. Although a second later I realized that I was clueless on how to play the sport but would recall everything that I had seen on TV, which later played to my advantage. After a few practices the kids got the basics although most of them got a bit disappointed when I informed them that we would replace tackles with just a simple touch. When we were done with practicing we had a match between my players and the other players who were being taught by another volunteer. During the game it struck me that most of the kids had potential to become great touch rugby players if only they were exposed to the right coaching and equipment. To see the smiles and the joy on their faces humbled me as I had achieved something at the end of the day; I had taught the kids to play rugby with the smallest of knowledge. We had a rotation schedule for all the various sporting codes which included, touch rugby, netball and soccer. Touch rugby soon became popular as the kids grew highly competitive in their newly found sport. The challenge however was to keep telling the kids not to pass the ball to a player behind them as the rules of the game stated that the ball should only be passed to a player behind. “You can almost imagine how that felt like”.

It’s been almost three weeks since I began my internship with WhizzKids United as a media coordinator. Working for WhizzKids United has also given me insight as to what I would like to do once I am complete with my internship. I have come to believe that WKU is an organization that has uniquely established itself to champion the various social disadvantages in the community of Edendale and I definitely want to be part of the change.

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