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"Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth. "
On a random day in sunny Durban, my sister and I had just finished loading the car en-route to Phakamisa, my home where I grew up. For those of you who don’t know, Phakamisa(which means “lift up”) is a “smallanyana” township on the outskirts of King William’s Town in the Eastern Cape . A place where most of my childhood dreams were incubated so naturally I was excited to go back. We arrived, late in the night after a sometimes very treacherous and exhausting 10 hours of travel. A lot happened along the way, one event that sticks out is when we were about an hour away from home, I suddenly got sick. I abruptly came to halt on the side of a dark, rural road outside of Peelton, got out and puked. I’m talking about this because when we arrived home, I couldn’t find my wallet. I couldn’t find it anywhere in the car and in a panic I asked my sister to tag along with me back to the spot so I could look for it there . It was a far-fetched attempt but the exhaustion had me thinking in a weird way. So we drove back and when I (obviously) couldn’t find the wallet, we trekked home, at this point on the verge of collapse. A consequence of this is that my sister walked out of the car and forgot to close the door of the car. I also had not noticed anything so it came as a surprise when at around 2am in the morning there was a loud knock on our door. My sister answered and I was asked to come to the door. I was confused! Who could possibly be looking for me at this time ? I went to the door and it was two older guys who I grew up with and who are in some way connected to my family. “ Anaso, izobona, nisheye umnyango wemoto evuliwe. Sifuna uk’bonisa uba asithathanga niks. Sincedile sifike ngelixesha ngoba ngeyithathiwe lemoto ngoku. Ezilaaitie zilapha ngoku zistout gqhit” (Anaso you guys left the car door open. We didn’t take anything but we wanted to show you because if we had arrived any later this car would’ve been gone! The kids here nowadays are very bad) Now, I had been wanting to put together a training clinic for some time now but this one memory had all the necessary ingredients for me to take action. I had been scared to take action before. On the one hand here were these guys who were born and raised in Phakamisa and who showed the type of good qualities that we wished more people around us had and on the other hand, the resort to a life of crime and drugs because of lack of opportunity and minimal ways to get active and engaged in society . Yes, I know that everybody knows how it goes but to actually see it happening right where I grew up hits harder .
Make no mistake , Phakamisa is not 5- star in any way but I don’t recall it ever being so lifeless. One guy that I grew up with, ended up killing his older brother not too long ago. The same brother who looked after him and his other siblings when their parents passed away. As I said, I grew up around him and we played on the streets together and I know that he was never bad in any way, but a toxic environment on top of emotional stress can yield those results over time.
The next day, one of the guys came to my place and he started relaying to me and my sister some other sad stories. People I know breaking into neighbors houses to feed a drug habit, people I grew up with behind bars for housebreaking , holding people at gun point and I guess all the other bad things that can be imagined. He was a relatively young guy but his face looked old as consequence of, I would think, the depression and pain mixed with the years of alcohol intoxication. This too was a guy who had/has dreams just like many of us did growing up in Phakamisa. Many of the guys were more talented than me , and I just don’t want the cycle of “Imagine if he had opportunities…” to continue, when I could help in a small way now . Track and field has opened me up to many opportunities and it would be a shame if I didn’t impart some knowledge to those that are coming up so that they can help themselves achieve their dreams . I fully believe that there are many more talented and smart guys in our townships and that when they finally are successful in life, they can follow this one example of giving back because that is how communities like ours will maintain and thrive on positivity as years go by. Sports provides opportunities for scholarships and a way to build discipline, learn how to problem solve, build positive relationships with peers and friends and the traveling is not a bad perk either. Track and field is no different in providing these opportunities and I believe that this one component, if made an integral part of townships like ours would be huge. I’m referring to all sports but by default I’m sticking to what I know. Sports is powerful. Imagine the possibilities for our townships if from this small effort me and my team are able to create a blueprint to take to other townships and create a network that connects through track and field ? We have imagined that and it is very possible .
I met my first coach at a training clinic . It was at the Jan Smuts stadium in
East London. Aaaah! the spectacular the feats I have witnessed on that track. The athleticism that has been showcased at more than regular intervals at that hallowed ground. MY WORD!!!Think of names like Avumile Ngetu, Leon Makiwane, Daniel van Der Vyver,Ofentse Boloko just to name a few! Would you believe it if I told you that that track is completely ruined. Not so long ago it was in flames. My friend, Jimmy Ntungwa sent me a voice note about the absolutely shameful state that it is in. Stolen equipment , looting, people living under the stands. I have been there to train whenever I was at home and it is in ruins and it seems that no one cares enough. So me and my friends(even better to say my team) who share the same passion for track and field and know the possibilities that track and field bring got together because we would never accomplish anything if we always tried to wait for the government to intervene. They might not see the value that we do, and as sad as that is , we could either complain or take action and here we are , choosing to do the latter. The only thing that we are hoping for is to instill that same passion to those younger, give them skills so that we breed a group of people that see the same values we hold and protect our sport for years to come . We have these crazy ideas for track and field in the Border area and this is our first step in what we hope will be continuity and prosperity.
The training clinic will be a way for us as a team to build athletics again with help from our own experiences . We will focus on having 32 kids to begin with. It is a small number and leaves little room for a greater inclusion but we want to start small so that we can have a blueprint for continuity and also for us no to overwhelm ourselves . 16 kids can register online and the other 16 will come from a township, which naturally for the first one will be Phakamisa because of obvious reasons. In time, and as we grow we will find ways for greater inclusion and adding on to the number of days.