For me, Africa is such a simple and yet complicated continent. It’s simple because the people are so warm-hearted and make you feel at home, and yet complicated because people are suffering due to poverty and unhealthy living conditions. These challenges need the many professionals all over the world to unite and help conquer the problems that Africa faces.
WhizzKids United is one of the best NGOs who fight on the front line against HIV/AIDS in one of South Africa’s most affected areas, Pietermaritzburg. With my dedicated heart and promising public health professional knowledge and skills, I am honored to have joined WKU as a volunteer and an intern. During the three months at WKU, I’ve experienced various adolescent-focused activities and services, such as sexual-reproductive health intervention and life skills training using football as a metaphor in dealing with the HIV pandemic. I got involved in the feeding scheme for Orphans and Vulnerable Children, and many other fun activities provided to clients who come to the Health Academy. This has been a mind opening journey for me to work in and live in such a child-friendly environment and see how much fun the children are having. Their smiles make me happy.
I held the position of program coordinator at WKU. Being based at the Durban office slightly changed my responsibilities and gave me opportunities to work for the Orphans and Vulnerable Children’s (OVC) programme. I have been very fortunate to work on the annual report and eventually submitting it to the funder of Meal-A-Day; this project began when I opted to help my program manager to gather information and statistics that would be presented as a form of a report- the report also clearly defined the organization’s hard work and progress during the past year. This was a great chance to monitor and evaluate the OVC program in-depth. There have been several challenges of gathering different data, but we finally managed to come up with an improved and more efficient approach to track data. Meanwhile, it is also exciting to participate in the process of developing WKU’s promising Monitoring & Evaluation programme.
All in all, it has been a wonderful experience at WKU, but sadly I need to go back to the missions awaiting me. I wish I could stay longer so I could have taken many more responsibilities that need more time to undertake. As the saying goes, “being apart opens a door to reunite”, so hopefully I will come back to this charming country and contribute my efforts again.
Nelson Mandela once said that the credible demonstration of the commitment of African leaders is to place the rights of children at the forefront. These words still echo in my head as though they had been whispered upon my ear by the struggle icon himself and are as fresh as yesterday’s daisy.
“Yesterday” my faith in humanity was renewed. “Yesterday” I began to believe in the expansion of the vision that began 3 years ago, the building of the WhizzKids United Health Academy. Why yesterday though? I don’t have a definite answer, but venturing deeper in thought, I do recall a chain of events that stirred this sudden embroilment of emotions within me. Well, it was around lunch time when a train of ants decided to feast upon my fries when I had abandoned them for five minutes or so. But surely I could not bore you in telling what happened next. However a summary will do no harm; due to such a large number of ants I lost interest on the fries that I had craved throughout the morning until lunchtime; much to the approval of the ants I abandoned my fries completely, mind you I had eaten a quarter of the fries.
After that little ordeal of giving back to Mother Nature and feeding one of her most annoying of creatures, don’t tell me you like ants, or you do? Anyway, for some odd reason I felt dreary as I starred upon the horizon of Edendale, patiently waiting for those tedious moments of no self worth to dissipate. What a queer time to feel depressingly empty and soul barren, who feels like that after lunch? Then whilst gulping away my poison of sorrow something hit me! Not physically, but something caught my attention. As I looked across my shoulder I noticed a group of kids laughing, which soon grew to singing and dancing. I watched them with immense interest; were they enjoying each other’s company I thought to myself, partly yes. They had this brightness in them, a sense of self worth, their smiles gleamed with hope and their singing simply translated to a “brighter future”. The WhizzKids United Health Academy had yet again proved why Nelson Mandela seeks for the establishment of a children’s hospital- not for self glorification but for the same reason the kids across my shoulder rely on the Health Academy. The Health Academy is founded on solid principals of attending to the health needs of the kids in Edendale and the staff who work tirelessly without resentment forms part of the many reasons why I commit to serving the future of my continent. Almost a month ago I met Charlize Theron, today I can only think of her but her words will continuously hover across all corners of the Health Academy- “the youth of this country are the future and we should not halt our fight against HIV&AIDS” were her exact words. That instant moment I felt a wave of joviality filling my soul, I had no excuse to feel gloomy and dull in a place that offers so much care and hope to thousands of kids.
I don’t slightly doubt that when Mandela’s vision was often met by a host of questions that would often result in the relinquishment of his dream; such thinking has even led me to ceaselessly applaud the selflessness of the founder of WhizzKids, Marcus, who never surrendered nor gave in, Winston Churchill would be pleased.
“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.