Pride eyes: Bloemfontein
- Words: Michael Macnaughton
- Images: Matea Ilieva
- Edited by: Michael Hendricks
Leaving Swakopmund last week, we started our 2,000km trek down through Namibia and into South Africa, the final country for the RiA expedition. The road was long, and barely a road, but thanks to the efforts of our driver Simeon, we trucked on and only suffered one flat tire on the way. Along the way, we managed to see some spectacular sights: Watching the sunrise over Dune 45, visiting Deadvlei, walking along the edge of the Fish River Canyon and seeing the impressive Augrabies Falls under the shooting stars; our journey to Bloemfontein could have been worse!
Arriving in Bloemfontein on Thursday, we went to our new accommodation, 12@Brompton. With a delicious home-cooked meal by Marieks, our host for the week, the group settled in, heavily layered in our sleeping bags to get some rest for the week ahead.
In Bloemfontein, the Pride worked very closely with our G4S South Africa partners from the Mangaung Correctional Centre. We were warmly welcomed to Bloemfontein by Ipo Maja.
“I hope to help the kids find their talent, what it is that drives them. I know at this age, the kids are trying to grapple with what they want. But my hope is that this will plant a seed that makes some of them want to be rugby players.”
Ipo Maja, Director of Inmate Care and Empowerment
We also met some of the employees of the centre who would be assisting us as our buddy coaches for the week ahead. Sorted into our coaching groups, we then visited our schools, each bringing us 100 children, ranging from 7 to 14 years old.
The Pride had already visited Kgato Primary School in previous years and the children were very excited to take part again this year. The coaches for this school – Finlay, Ryan and Will (Jr.) – were even sung to by students as their welcome. St. Mary’s and Rutanang are both new to the program, but brought their own impressive enthusiasm and eagerness, ready to make the week a success.
I was coaching at St. Mary’s with the Kiwi duo of Warren and Will (Sr.), promising another great week of work. Our headmaster was keen to know what our mission was for the week and what would happen following our departure. We worked to explain and demonstrate the PRIDE values which we hope to instil in the children, and how that will hopefully help to inspire the assisting teachers and buddy coaches to carry on after we leave. He in turn got in touch with the local rugby union to insist on their future involvement, another example of how some of the schools we’re visiting for the first time are already committed and enthusiastic about establishing a lasting legacy with the Pride.
Over the weekend, we led a coaching session for a developmental squad of the local pro club, the Cheetahs. Roughly 100 children arrived to play, and we enjoyed working with like-minded coaches who saw the benefits of bringing rugby to a community and how similar their values were to our own. The session went very well, and we are grateful to the Cheetahs and G4S South Africa for planning this joint session, the likes of which we hope to see continue in the future.
Sunday was a rest day, so the group took this opportunity to visit the Loch Logan Waterfront mall in the centre of town for some retail therapy. Some members walked up Naval Hill, just 10 minutes from our accommodation, a small national park overlooking the city where wildebeest, zebras, hartebeest, ostriches and a pair of majestic giraffes kept watch over Bloem.
On Monday, it was time to begin our coaching. I personally found the language barrier to be surprisingly difficult, but with the help of the teachers and Siyabonga, one of our buddy coaches from Mangaung, we managed to overcome these challenges and have a successful coaching week with the children improving greatly and most importantly having fun.
On Tuesday morning, the group left early from our accommodation to join the school assembly at Kgato Primary School. As part of our legacy project, G4S donated 200 books to the school to provide the children with the resources to develop their education. The headmistress of the school told us:
“We are very grateful for this gift as it is an investment into the children’s education. As Mandela once said, ‘Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to the change the world’.”
Tselegale Dorcus Ralepele, Headmistress, Kgato Primary School
BLOEMFONTEIN COACHING PROGRAM IN NUMBERS
- Number of participating schools/communities: 3 (St Mary’s Primary, Kgato, Rutanang)
- Number of children coached: 286
- Boys / girl ratio: 62 / 38
- Percentage of children participating in 3 or more sessions: 95%
- Number of participating local coaches: 8
- Number of participating local coaches awarded a BPF coach certificate: 8
During the week, Liv and Finlay again ran a very successful G4S leadership workshop at the Mangaung Correctional Centre for the G4S employees. They finished on a high note, with their final workshop of 2018. G4S showed their appreciation by hosting a delicious braai for both of our teams to get to know one another better over some fantastic food.
Thursday was tournament day, and thanks to the thorough planning from Finlay and Kyle, we enjoyed the perfect end to another strong week. Although we were only coaching for 3 days, it was very rewarding to see the improvements in the children from start to finish, particularly in the way they displayed the values we had worked to emphasise.
“The coaches taught me how to work as a team and how to build my future. I am very grateful to be a part of this team.”
Thato Leeuw, Student at Kgato Primary School
Again, this week wouldn’t have been possible without the tremendous support and enthusiasm of our partners from G4S, nor without the commitment of our participating schools. We were impressed with the commitment both parties showed to make our hopes for Bloemfontein a reality.
For many of us, myself included, this marked the end of our penultimate coaching week. We’ve stuck with our Thought of the Day tradition – wherein a team member offers some of their immense wisdom to the group to close our nightly meetings – and they’ve been taking on a certain theme of late: although the end is nearing, we all agree how incredible and rewarding our experience has been together. So with a mixture of excitement and sadness, we move on to the last part of the RiA expedition: Port Elizabeth, where we’ve thankfully been promised it is warmer than Bloemfontein!
Watching the Springboks train in Bloemfontein