Speaking in a language that children understand

More than 1 400 disadvantaged children across the country enjoyed more than just soccer during the Fifa World Cup. On Friday September 17 the South African Business Coalition on HIV/Aids (Sabcoha) hosted a breakfast to report on what these children got up to during that time.

Sabcoha sponsored an initiative called “Camp I am” in five of the country’s nine provinces during the Cup. From 7am to 3pm daily, it turned Gauteng, North West, KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape and Western Cape into a playground for six to 13 year olds.
More than 120 youth facilitators aged between 18 and 29 were hired for the different sites.

In partnership with Sabcoha in this initiative were LoveLife, Dance4Life, PlaySoccer, Operation Hope and Soul City.

In the first week the programme had taken about 110 children to watch some of the World Cup matches through the Grassroots Soccer/Sony Ticket Fund.

The Mail & Guardian visited one site in Bram Fischerville, Soweto, on July 1 where 23 LoveLife alumni helped to facilitate the site under the leadership of 19-year-old Manqoba Shabangu.

Kai Crooks-Chissano, Sabcoha’s 2010 World Cup Project Manager, said of the alumni: “They are passionate, committed and have made their voices heard in more ways than one. They are the spokes in the wheel of the programme. They are simply amazing.”

The M&G arrived at Bram Fischerville at lunchtime on a cold Thursday morning, but the atmosphere inside was warm and energetic. Children were eating a meal supplied by Woolworths; others were still standing in the queue waiting for their share. Music was playing in the background, and those who were finished eating were dancing to Hands Up by DJ Cleo, playing and singing along to the music in T-shirts that read “I am Responsible”.

“As we feed the mind, so must we nourish the body. Woolworths has shown the quality of their brand,” said Crooks-Chissano.

The children cleaned up after themselves and gathered in their different groups, led by one of the facilitators. Of course, it was impossible to keep them quiet at first. We joined one of the groups as the facilitators began the lesson of the afternoon: “repositioning yourself for success”. The facilitators spoke in a language that the children understood and engaged the children throughout the lesson. If the children understood they had to chant: ‘yes sir, sir, yes sir’, in response.

The lesson was then turned into a more memorable experience through story telling. The first tale was of an eagle that was displaced and ended up on a farm with chickens. The eagle grew up among the chickens and thought it could not fly; with much difficulty, the eagle went through a process of self-discovery and had to shift its mindset to realise what it meant to be an eagle. The second tale was titled “Johnny the best cooker”, about a young boy whose only talent was cooking and how he used his skills to better his life and the lives of his family members.

‘We are doing something for the community’
Moving to the kitchen from where lunch was served, a number of women from the community were cleaning up. “This is a good experience,” said Sizakele Mbatha. “We are doing something for the community; the kids appreciate it, especially those with no parents at home.”

Mbatha is a 45-year-old who is doing her first year at Unisa, studying Early Childhood Development.

Eighteen-year-old Mbali Mbatha is in grade 11 and was also helping in the kitchen and she wants to grow up to be a social worker. “I’m enjoying it here, it’s better than staying at home and doing nothing or getting into trouble,” she said.

Also in the kitchen was Ayanda Dlodlo (16), doing grade 10 with ambitions of studying accounting after completing her matric.

Dudu Mametse, another mother in the community, said, “Being here has made a huge difference, I’ve learnt a lot: how to work with children, and all the way in the kitchen we can hear about LoveLife and the other lessons that they are teaching.”

The programme had a daily plan of activities such as dance, art, sport, drama, problem solving, HIV/Aids and life skills.

On Friday September 17, Sabcoha hosted a breakfast to discuss the outcomes of Camp I Am. They played a video of the camp titled “We Were There”.

“The business sector wanted to do something about child protection during the World Cup,” said Crooks-Chissano.

“‘I am’ is an affirmation of being. Coupled with ‘we were there’ means we were a part of history,” she said.

The programme was funded by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, BMW, Sasol, Xstrata Alloys, Mercedes Benz, Unilever, Dow and Edcon.

The guests present at the feedback breakfast all seemed to have the same fears. Where to from here? Brad Mears, CEO of Sabcoha, said that there is a lot of space for the American equivalent of summer camp in South Africa. This was his vision and future for the programme.

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