In South Africa young people must be under 18 years of age in order to be classified as street children and by extension receive help from street children’s organisations. This means that teenagers who have been street children all their lives are essentially deserted by the authorities as soon as they reach the age of 18, often with little to no formal education or life skills. One of the organisations which the Jabulani Project works with is SISCO (Shonaphansi Street Childrens Operation) a residence for young men who find themselves in this terrible predicament. The majority of the youths at the shelter have progressed through the social care system and then found themselves homeless and unemployable once they turned 18. Unfortunately SISCO can only provide them with free accommodation, so they are forced to find “piece” jobs in and around the shelter which is located in St Georges – one of the most underprivileged and dangerous areas in Durban – in order to survive. SISCO identified that an effective way to engage these young men would be through a sports programme which they ran in a local park and quickly discovered a common language – football. Over many weeks of regular visits, a mutual respect was established and there was a significant improvement in the boys’ fitness levels. Furthermore, the Project was able to introduce some simple literacy and numeracy classes, which involved activities such as helping the boys write CVs, identifying their unique skill sets and trying to set life goals.
When the programme first began, there was little to no equipment, the boys had to play in one of the few sets of clothes that they owned and since, without strips or equipment, they were unable to register as a team, the only playing surface available was a concrete 5-aside pitch. This unfortunately meant that injuries were sustained on a fairly regular basis and they found themselves going through shoes and footballs at an unsustainable rate. Most of the boys played in their bare feet as this was preferable to destroying what was often their only pair of shoes and since the pitch offered very little shade, they were only able to play for around 45 minutes to an hour under the blazing Durban sun before they became too dehydrated and exhausted to continue.
Having contacted The SFP Trust for a donation of some spare kit and equipment, the Jabulani Project were completely overwhelmed by the generosity of their award which included football boots, footballs, bibs and a donation of training kit and water bottles from St. Mirren F.C. in the Community. This enabled the boys to register as a team and make the transition from the concrete to the grass pitch which naturally reduced the frequency of injuries and allowed the boys to make use of the football boots which the SFPT had provided. The project was able to give a football kit to each member of the shelter, which meant they no longer had to play in their regular clothes and the personal water bottle meant they could fill this up at the shelter and bring it to the team practice extending the length of time they could play before dehydration kicked in. In addition to this, the new footballs allowed a much wider variety of training sessions to be arranged as previously the boys had been limited to the use of only one ball and these footballs also markedly improved the teams’ skills and technique as they were able to spend more time individually with a ball at their feet.
The donation was a fantastic reward for the boys’ hard work and motivated further fundraising to purchase a pair of easily assembled goal posts which allowed the football sessions to be taken further afield to destinations such as the beach. In the words of a South African volunteer, Avela Mabhena, who assisted with the programme, “The boys really appreciate this kit and equipment because it is the kind of the thing they see in shop windows, but could never afford to buy and it motivates them to train harder and take pride in their abilities and the team as a whole.” Freeman Mthembu, the volunteer who set up the programme had this to say : “We are all very thankful for this donation from the SFP Trust because it means we can keep this programme running for a number of years – it helps keep the boys out of trouble and encourages them to maintain a healthy lifestyle.”