Arrived safely at the mother land (South Africa) after a 20 hour flight and movie marathon (My Cousin Vinny, Skin, Coach Carter, A Beautiful Mind & Convicted) from JFK to Johannesburg, SA to Port Elizabeth, SA.
I was picked up by a volunteer and a driver from the organization and driven to my new home for the next 5 weeks. I was greeted by 33 volunteers (all had arrived the previous day from mainly Europe), ranging from ages 18-35—many are backpacking the world, others are on “gap year” (before starting college), others are just volunteering or on “holiday” (vacation). I was immediatly given the nickname USA being that i’m the only one from the states.
Accomodations are decent, cottages with bunk beds, communal living room, pool) –its like being back in college (“university”) again having all of these people around. It’s been fun bonding with everyone. My roommates are a little bit older and are from England and Switzerland.
Each day we visit 2-3 township schools where we provide “sport” to the children since they do not have Physical Education in their curriculum. Sports include football (US soccer), cricket, netball, basketball, tennis, field hockey and rugby. Believe it or not i’ve been coaching soccer with a few “mates”.
The schoolyard fields are most often dirt (no grass) and covered with garbage, glass, and boulders. The kids have one school uniform (imagine wearing the same thing for weeks without washing it) so to prevent it from getting dirty, most kids play barefoot or in their underwear. The fortunate few may have a change of clothes or donated “football boots” (cleates) that probably don’t fit or are missing.
We usually run drills for and hour then play a half hour match before going to the next school. It’s difficult to communicate with the language barrier so its crucial to use hand motions and demonstrate. Every now and then you come across a child with decent english that can hold a simple conversation.
The children that we observe as stand out players are recommendend to the Umzingis organization and they are considered for attendance at the School Of Excellence on scholarship. Since Umzingisi is a not-for-profit organization thez have donation funds set aside to sponsor children with potential to excel in athletics and also to give them a higher quality education. I am hoping to volunteer starting next week in the actual classrooms.Another program they runs in the schools is Life Skills. On my first day we attended an orientation which basically included numerous ice breaker games and activities—each one with a message about sexual awareness (HIV–1 in 4), drugs and alcohol abuse since these issues are prevelant in the townships.Everythings else is going well—went bowling earlier this week and scored 159 (beating all the other volunteers). Last night we went to a 20-20 Semis Cricket match which was interesting to see and learn. It got a little boring at times but then again people say the same thing about American baseball. And this morning I got up early to run a 5K down by the ocean with a local township schools. It was a “Fun Run” to raise money for the kids. Again the kids ran 5 miles in whatever type of clothing they may have.