What an exciting journey we had in this first season of the Mixed Gender League. The league uses the football3 methodology, which was a new thing for our youth. I believe the 2014 Football for Hope Festival in Brazil, where I represented my country as a Young Leader and mediator and where I had to lead integration together with the mediators from around the world, taught me to bring home and implement what I learnt. It created a big change and a wonderful break for a lot of countries around the world.
The recruitment started and there was no turning back for me from being the coordinator of such a big programme. I was working with an awesome team - Game Changers and Sanele Nsele, the Homework Coordinator. The first season started, we were working with 8 schools, 8 teams, 4 boys and 4 girls each, and a total number of 64 participants for the season. It was difficult at first having to go to each school explaining to them the concept and the aims of the Mixed Gender League. Some schools wanted to be part of the league but couldn’t because of transport issues and the distance, so we had to keep pushing and find other schools. One school told us they would be part of the league but when the date came for them to play they didn’t show up, but that didn’t stop us we had to keep going and we did until we completed it and we had 8 schools.
Once the ball was kicked for the first match, the teams started understanding the rules and the ways of football3, teaching them about gender equity, fair play rules, and working as a team to achieve a common goal. Every Tuesday and Thursday the teams showed up. Even the teachers came to watch their particular teams perform. This was encouraging to see that there was support from the school body as well.
The final day of the Mixed Gender League was on the 12th of June. It was amazingly positive how the players reflected the spirit of teamwork and respect. At the end, it was amazing to hear the participants’ overall feedback on what they learnt from our Mixed Gender League.
We did our work perfectly well. I was an amazing development from the challenges to the achievements of the whole idea of Mixed Gender League. The excitement still hasn’t gone down on us. It has been really amazing. The two teams from the final had the same amount of points after the league matches and the game went penalties after a 1-1 draw after regular time. The heroics of the Edendale Tech goalkeeper won it for his team. He saved 3 consecutive penalties. He even had to step up for his team and scored his penalty. The sport teachers of both schools were there in the action to support their teams.
After the match the teams were both awarded gold medals and a beautiful orange football for the school. The team from Mehlokazulu finished the league in 3rd place and received silver medals. There was a lot of singing and celebrations in the stands from the supporters, singing traditional Zulu songs of victory. It created a very positive vibe to the match and the Health Academy as a whole. The teachers of the two finalists also received medals as a token of appreciation to their interest and support!
I am ready for the next season.
My name is Franziska Distler and I am a German volunteer at WKU. I am very lucky to get the opportunity to spend almost one year in South Africa. The longer I am here, the more I have gotten involved in the WhizzKids United programs and the more I am learning.
As a 23-year old girl who just came out of university without much work-experience, I get the chance to explore my strengths and weaknesses in a nice working environment. Most of my time I spend on organizing our life-skill program for students “On The Ball” and our weekly “School Shuttle Service” we just introduced. These tasks make me stay in close contact with principals and teachers around our Health Academy so I am quite often busy driving with colleagues to schools to promote our programs, bring invitations and organize ongoing procedures. Once a week our counselors visit some clients at their homes for ongoing care. I go with them pretty often. Together with the school visits it makes me spend a lot of time outside the office and in the community, which I really appreciate. It allows me to get a deeper insight in the living conditions and people´s life in the Township outside our safe and beautiful WhizzKids United area.
It also shows me directly which problems, fears and worries especially young kids have to face and how they sometimes struggle with their lives. I have never been so close to so much sorrow and poverty. It makes me infinitely sad to sit next to some kids and see them smiling while I know exactly that they are just pretending to be happy. They are suffering from violence, rape, abuse and serious diseases like HIV and TB. But at the same moment I am also very happy and proud to work for our organization which provides kids help and support. I`m convinced that our staff and especially the counselors are doing an awesome job and it calms me a lot to know that they take care of these kids with all their heart.
Besides that I am learning a lot about the Zulu-culture here in Edendale. Especially when we are organizing events you can see the differences in the working practices which makes me aware of characteristics of myself, I never thought about. Before I came to South Africa 8 months ago I strongly disagreed to be a “typical German” – but the longer I am here I have to confess that it is challenging me a lot not to have the same understanding about timing, planning and responsibilities. I don´t condemn the way people are working here, I rather try to see everything as a chance to learn. And I´m sure that it can only benefit me even in Germany to be more flexible, less stressed and optimistic that everything will go like planned – if it´s not plan A: Who cares?
The best parts of WKU are definitely the staff-members and I like all of them. In the mornings I am looking forward to go to work and it´s very nice to spend time with these guys, no matter if they are management-members, counselors, nurses or football coaches. They are the ones who make our organization such a nice place and motivate the youth to spend time here. I´m also living with international volunteers from WhizzKids United which gives allows me to be part of an awesome team even in our leisure time.
About my stay here in South Africa and especially about my time at WhizzKids United I can basically say, that it was the best decision I could have made after my studies. Of course like everybody else I have good and bad times and face some challenges. But I see myself growing a lot and it makes me unbelievably proud. I wanted to challenge myself to see what I am able to do and I don´t want to miss one single second or experience.
Having heard of WhizzKids United for some time it was now time to see it for real, “Tim” said Marcus “I’d like you to work with the Game Changers.”
Well time came to visit the academy for the first time, after the hour journey we have all got to know and love Marcus gave me a swift look round before moving on to the blue container which was going to be a major part of my life for the next few months. My first encounter with the Game Changers and Dennis was a quiet one, All ten of them came out of the container they told me a bit about themselves and their names, the names of course went in one ear and out the other, but I would get to know them and love each of the Game Changers over time.
I spent the next few weeks sitting in the container with the Game Changers and Dennis while they planned an event, “women’s day” and probably the first time I to chance to interact with the Game Changers , I remember been taken round Edendale hospital collecting donations to finance the event. It was also the time I was told that they were not allowed to speak Zulu, and that Dennis was a ghost who could appear round any corner and check to see if they were or were not.
The event came on a Saturday and I drove up with Marcus, well talk about been thrown n at the deep end, “ so we need someone to introduce the academy and open the event” ( something I have now made sure they have planned in the their next events ! ) it was good to see them all at work, and also know how far they have come since then. Oh I must talk about been introduced to the amazing icebreaker about the banana. Starting off with the line “peel banana – peel, peel banana” and finishing with the line “out banana – out, out banana” all the parts of the digestion of said banana are described in between including actions showing which stage we had got to.
It was good to get to know the gamechangers over the next few weeks, there different characteristics, there likes and dislikes. I began starting to take over more and more of the classes, but at this stage it was hard to see where we were going with the programme, there was a curriculum which made life a bit easier, but it seemed no way of marking their progress, to see what their strengths and weaknesses were.
So the task was set to write worksheets for maths and English, weekly tests, and all kind of things that in some cases I hadn’t done at all, and if I had it had been many years since I had. It took a lot of trawling through google teaching pages to remind me of how to do things. It was useful to find a book that we could all have a copy of, this helped greatly with comprehension and with reading out loud. It was strange to me how they could speak words that when seen on paper they struggled with. It also helped with getting them to question a teacher, which seemed to be something they were not used to. So by getting them to ask about words and there meanings the Game Changers got used to speaking out in lessons.
The next event to come along was the Gogos (Zulu grandmother) tea party, the organisation for this seemed to of improved from the last event, though there was a problem on how people were invited, resulting in Hans going to the clinic next door and inviting Gogos from there.
It turned out to be quite a fun day, the Gogos as sprightly as ever entered into the spirit of all the games, loving the football game, especially the penalty shootout at the end laughing and cheering every goal and save.
Next up was the school holidays and the on the ball tournament. The Game Changers came in everyday to cook and do icebreakers, and probably the time when I felt I was becoming a part of the group, and I was referred to as a Game Changer. Though this did involve dancing with Mlilo in the middle of a large circle of laughing onlookers.
So how long could I go on with this blog? Well truth is for many pages, other events, tests, worksheets, laughter, and tears. Oh and garden building!!
The academy had been donated a lot of vegetable plants in small boxes the plan was to build gardens to plant them in. After a donation was given we ordered wood, nails and soil to make large boxes to plant the young plants. The whole task was taken on enthusiastically, sawing, hammering, and planting, seemed like everyone wanted to join in, especially the planting. It’s good to see a few months later that the first pick of spinach has taken place, there are tomatoes ripening, and another new box has been made and planted with seeds.
Then there was the trip to the Mandela capture site, a day out for us all! Starting early…ish, we drove to the capture site; apparently I went the wrong way, but hey! We got there. Seeing them see the sculpture for the first time was an experience, and photographs were taken from every angle. Moving on from there to the Howick falls we had our only disappointment, we were told that we could not braai near the falls, but a new place was suggested Karkloof falls, unfortunately the directions were not the best, but after a bit of a detour we arrived. A braai site was invaded and the afternoon was spent with music, laughter, and good food cooked by Dennis. To see the actual falls you had to climb through a fence and down a path, it’s there I realised perhaps flip flops were not the best footwear! But the view of the falls was worth it, the water falling into a large wooded gorge.
So now I am reaching the end of my time here at WhizzKids, and it’s with a great deal of sadness. It’s perhaps hard to describe all my feelings, the people I have met here I now regard as good friends, Dennis and the Game Changers themselves I will miss so much. But perhaps this quote sums it up.
"Don`t cry because you are leaving, smile because you were there."
I was too excited but as soon as I was being told that I have to take this journey all by myself I began to be worried, but knowing that there is a first time for everything I made it to Germany all by myself. But when I arrived at the immigration I had to answer some few questions because my visa photo and passport photo looked differently and I was also looking different because of my hairstyle. I spent about 20 minutes answering questions; that’s how I was welcomed in Germany.
I had faced some challenges in the first few days: flu, extremely cold weather and late sunsets, but that didn’t stop me from going out and seeing Bremen’s beautiful old buildings and taking pictures next to the famous Bremen Stadt musicians from the fictional story, trying some different German dishes, or going around Bremen seeing a whole lot of different things.
We even went to the town hall to be welcomed officially in Bremen and took a tour inside the town hall. We took part in an econtur seminar. It was a great experience for me, doing a presentation about myself and WhizzKids at the Borda offices.
There is one thing that worries me a lot. People here don’t know anything about Pietermaritzburg and people from Durban are making fun of me. So please people, talk about our city everywhere you go, because now it is all about Durban and I don’t like that, so that is why I stand up for PMB. I don’t want to lie. Sometimes I feel a bit ashamed because of the fact that I only have finished high school while people I’m with here they have tertiary education. So sometimes I don’t have much to say about my educational background but I believe that this won’t be a barrier to me. I will do what I came here to do and I want to make sure that I perform my work in a way that they don’t even notice any difference.
I am enjoying my stay so far even though I live in a rich people, boring area where I hardly see people. But so far so good.