World tennis champion tours Port Elizabeth
World number one tennis player Roger Federer toured Port Elizabeth on Wednesday, visiting the Imbewu Community Volunteers, which he sponsors.
This was the Swiss-based player’s first opportunity to meet the organisation’s workers, and many of the children he has sponsored for the past year.
Federer arrived in Port Elizabeth with his girlfriend, Mirka Vavrinec; his father, Robert; and his mother, Lynette, who was born in South Africa.
Imbewu is a joint community development project between South Africa and Switzerland in which volunteers from both countries work to assist local youths to be actively involved in the community.
Federer sponsors a group of children from Soweto-on-Sea, one of the poorest and most crime-ridden communities in the Port Elizabeth area.
First stop for Federer was the Empilweni hospital in New Brighton, which deals predominantly with tuberculosis patients. Of the 27 children in the hospital, eight are HIV-positive and four are orphans.
“I have not been in a hospital in my life and to witness children suffering was very emotional for me,” said Federer.
He became involved in the project through his mother.
The group then was taken on a tour of Soweto-on-Sea, which culminated in a stopover at the Ndzondelero Secondary School. As the minibus pulled up, it was greeted by 17 drum majorettes, attired in white-and-turquoise outfits, and a school band of eight drums and two bugles.
School principal Mnkwazo Grootboom welcomed Federer and thanked him for his financial assistance.
“Your gesture of looking after these children is welcomed not only by myself and staff, but by the community and the whole of South Africa.
We are honoured to be visited by a person of your calibre.”
Federer subsequently joined the group of youngsters in a game of soccer and handed over some T-shirts and balls.
From there, the party moved on to the Mvisisano Primary School where a formal ceremony took place that included a welcome by the school choir, a series of speeches and an exchanging of gifts.
A tree was later planted in Federer’s honour.
“I know they follow my career and I hope when they see the tree they will think of me and it will motivate them. I know I will think of them whenever I am not doing well and they will give me some inspiration,” said Federer.
He then moved on to the home of one of the children he is sponsoring, where he was introduced to the child’s grandmother.
“She probably doesn’t know who I am and it really doesn’t matter. All I hope is that I can make some difference in their lives.”—Sapa