Some things do make a big difference in our country, and sport is certainly one of them.
I like to run. It has many advantages besides keeping one fit and healthy. There is, for instance, the irreplaceable sense of accomplishment and achievement one feels after completing a race.
Many metaphors have been drawn between the sport of running and the game of life. They ring true because running teaches you tenacity, determination and discipline. Just when you think that the hill is too steep to conquer, you overcome it and persevere.
This journey started about six years ago for me, and I’ve run with greater or lesser commitment at various times since then. Injuries have thrown me off course from time to time, indifference and even laziness at other times, but still I return. To use another well-oiled phrase, it doesn’t matter how often you fall off the horse, as long as you keep getting back up on it.
This year marks a point at which I’m firmly planted on that horse, yelling “Giddy up!” and cantering at great speed. This year, I will attempt my first marathon. My friend Londi and I will run the New York Marathon on November 2 – an exciting and frightening endeavour.
To keep ourselves motivated, we’ve decided that our first marathon should be in one of the greatest cities of the world. And, also, because there’s no chance of our backing out once long-distance travel and all that has been paid for.
But there is another reason, too.
We want to be soldiers of hope. We’ve set ourselves the target of raising R100 000 in the 100 days left until the starting gun fires on what will doubtless be a chilly morning in the Big Apple. We are doing this to benefit the Dreamfields project.
Now, if you don’t know about it, Dreamfields was launched in 2007 by veteran journalist and soccer man John Perlman. He wanted to capitalise on the spirit of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, so that football has a lasting legacy. The idea was to get individuals and companies to help in the development of this sport at schools around the country.
That meant building football fields in remote areas and getting the right kit to children. Dreamfields also provides training for coaches.
This all culminates in league games and tournaments for children countrywide.
I’ve been to one of the Dreamfields tournaments and the delight on the children’s faces was priceless. Team sports, as Perlman put it in a recent radio interview, teach children lessons they don’t even know they are learning at the time. The rewards filter through to the community, especially during the tournaments, when entrepreneurs benefit from the big crowds these events attract.
There is plenty to be cynical and despondent about in this country. We have that in spades. But aren’t we all just tired of it? The whining, the complaining – “Whatever will be done?” Well, we are tired of that too, so we want to do something.
Dreamfields transforms the places where children play. In some instances it starts from scratch. The resources go directly into township and rural schools, where sometimes the most basic facilities are lacking.
The annual Discovery Health active kids report for 2014 found that fewer children are going to bed hungry, which is great news. It also found, however, that more than half of our children do not have access to play equipment or recreation facilities. The report found that this is one of the reasons for the increase in obesity levels among our kids, and that children are increasingly affected by chronic diseases of lifestyle.
The area for which we will be raising funds is uMkhanyakude in northern KwaZulu-Natal. It is desolate and remote – a forgotten part of the country. There are many pressing needs in the country, and there is no suggestion here that this is a silver bullet for them all. The challenges are complex and immense, but organisations such as Dreamfields – and others valiantly plodding ahead – do make a difference.
“When I play soccer, I feel joy inside” – that’s what Tebogo, a matric student who benefited from Dreamfields in Venda, said.
We will run with all our hearts and our tired limbs to make sure that we can spread this joy to the children of uMkhanyakude.
Please support us. You can contribute on dreamfieldsproject.org