Umlazi in Durban was one of two communities in which PeacePlayers International first began programming in 2001. It is the second largest township in South Africa with an official population of 750,000 people and over 1 million when including informal settlements. HIV and AIDs remain huge problems in the community with an estimated 20 – 40% of individuals testing positive.
PeacePlayers International – South Africa coaches Thandeka “TT” Thusi and Khulekani “Janda” Ngcobo are two individuals who came up through the PPI-SA Program. Upon recognizing a need in Umlazi, the two went beyond their responsibility as primary school coaches to start a Leadership Development Program team.
Coach TT age 19, is the second oldest in her family of eight. She was raised by her parents, which isn’t the local norm. However, having both parents in the home did not shield her from community challenges.
“Growing up and even today, each day was difficult, because we live in a society where women and girl are treated as objects. In this kind of environment girls are vulnerable to dropping out of school, and engaging in unhealthy sexual behavior. For these reasons, I always involved myself in sport. I joined PPI-SA when I was in grade five at Cwebezela Primary School. I started playing basketball because it was the only sport where boys and girls played together.”
Coach Janda was raised by his mother. Like TT, he started playing basketball in primary school and continued into high school, where he played for an Umlazi-based LDP that later dissolved.
“I grew up in an environment where bad things became acceptable. Boys are allowed and almost encouraged to have multiple partners, because women are looked at as objects. Car thieves are looked at as role models.
Being part of the PPI family, I can say I have learned to deal with peer and community pressures. Basketball has helped me develop as a person and helped build friendships with people who don’t judge me.”
It was for the love of the game and their community that these young coaches decided to take action. Their goals were to keep youth off the street, give them a constructive activity, and most importantly provide someone they can talk to.
Senior Life Skills Coordinator, Ntobeko Ngcamu, said, “For me the most impressive part of this has been the initiative shown by TT and Janda. They didn’t wait for someone else to come start something, but saw a need and started working to address it. It’s been so cool to come alongside as PPI and help support this team.”
This example is a testament to what PeacePlayers International is doing here in South Africa, and around the world – helping empower youth to address the challenges they face in their communities.