Faces of the Pride: Ipo Maja
- Name: Ipo Maja
- Role: Director, Inmate Care and Empowerment, G4S Correction Services (Bloemfontein), G4S Country Program Leader for Bhubesi Pride Foundation’s Bloemfontein project work
- Based: Bloemfontein, South Africa
Ipo believes all children, regardless of their background or interests, would enjoy taking part in Bhubesi Pride Foundation’s coaching program as it has so much to offer. Since the program began in Bloemfontein four years ago, Ipo and her G4S colleagues have revelled in seeing the excitement of the local children who participate, knowing that, for them, it’s a rare opportunity.
“We select schools for the program based on the fact they are located in disadvantaged communities. Most of the children come from families where either just one or none of the parents are employed, and there are many other social challenges the children face in their day-to-day lives.
By learning new rugby skills and values, the children feel appreciated. They bond so well with the Pride coaches and really benefit from their attention – it makes the children feel they can achieve something positive, and I think that helps develop their inner strength.”
Ipo’s hope for the future is that children who show exceptional ability on the pitch continue to play rugby. As such, Ipo has built links with local rugby union organisation Cheetah Kidz Sport Development Program to help create pathways for ongoing opportunities.
Ipo also believes the BPF program is an ideal platform for every child to develop a better understanding of key life skills, including leadership and how to be a team player. Of the way the program integrates teaching these values, Ipo says, “we are reinforcing them so much, it would now take a lot of undoing for the children to go astray!”
Ipo and her colleagues also support local primary children off the pitch through legacy projects, where G4S donate library books and other equipment to schools.
“At G4S, we are very focussed on supporting education. To ensure the children have conducive learning environments, we provide refurbished desks.
We do this through an innovative project that identifies ways for inmates at Mangaung Correctional Centre – which is managed by G4S – to give back to the community. Schools provide us with broken desks which are the transformed at a Mangaung workshop to look brand new again.”
Reflecting on her experiences as the G4S Country Program Leader for BPF’s Bloemfontein expedition leg, Ipo says:
“The ups as well as the downs are highlights! My day-to-day role at G4S is all about governance and structure, which I think sits well with my organised personality. However, because the project involves so many stakeholders, my experiences with Bhubesi Pride Foundation have taught me to be more adaptable.
We always have detailed plans in place but sometimes things change suddenly and we have to ‘re-route’. This approach to work has been a huge learning curve, but one I’m grateful for. Bhubesi Pride Foundation has brought out strength in me that I never thought I had.”