WOODBURY — Nonnewaug High School in Connecticut, US, is sending old sports equipment to an impoverished section of Cape Town, South Africa where it will be used by soccer-loving kids using sports as a path toward a better life.
Nonnewaug Athletic Director Declan Curtin said the first shipment to the African nation was sent out last week and includes soccer balls, cones and jerseys, items that have been sitting in storage for several years.
The town of Khayelitsha has a sports program but no money to purchase equipment.
“It’s the perfect opportunity to look in our closets and find things that we might not be using anymore that will be treasured in South Africa,” Curtin said.
Nonnewaug is looking for local sponsorships to help with postage costs and for future shipments, including cleats, which are in high demand as some kids in the South African program play barefoot.
The connection with Cape Town’s Khayelitsha township was made through Region 14 Superintendent Joseph Olzacki, who has connections on the African continent.
Before coming to Woodbury, Olzacki spent five years in Rwanda where he headed up a team of American teachers brought in by the African nation to elevate its educational system to American standards.
While there, Olzacki was at a United Nations conference when he met Cape Town native Abongile “Bongi” Quasana, who helped start a youth soccer program in 1998 to “get kids off the streets” and bring purpose to their lives.
Olzacki said the endeavor can also bring a sense of purpose and pride to Nonnewaug students.
“This is a way for kids to learn that they can effect change 10,000 miles away,” Olzacki said.
Curtin said he had been looking for a goodwill project for the school’s sports leadership council. A short conversation with Olzacki got the ball rolling.
Quasana expressed his joy during an interview with the Republican-American last week from Cape Town. He said children there live in harsh conditions, often without enough money for food. But sports, specifically soccer, has given them hope and inspiration.
“We are so happy for this. We are trying to make change in this country and we are doing it though soccer. People can change. I’ve seen it because of soccer,” Quasana said.
“We don’t want to win soccer games. We want to understand humanity.”
Last week, Nonnewaug athletes were pouring through the equipment and getting it ready for shipment.
“We’re just so grateful to be able to help out and maybe allow someone else to fulfill their dreams,” said senior soccer player Mia Higgins.
Curtin said the goodwill connection to Africa has been a fun project that involves leadership, teamwork and an understanding of things on a more global scale.
Quasana promised he would send pictures back to Woodbury, and offered thanks to the community for helping make a difference a world away, in a place most Americans will never see.
(SOURCE: The Republican-American)