Sport has the power to change the world.
Those are the opening words of Nelson Mandela’s speech at the inaugural Laureus Sports Awards in the year 2000. And boy oh boy are they true.
You see, sport has definitely changed my life.
I played a lot of sports growing up, and even though I was decent at most of them, I knew very early on that I was not the best by a long shot, but that never stopped me from participating. And I never harboured any ambitions of becoming a pro athlete, but I certainly played with many talented friends who could’ve made it if the odds weren’t stacked against them.
So once I started working in the IT space post graduation, I felt lost and I had no passion for it. And so began a series of events that would lead me to becoming a sports journalist. Topic for another day.
And this is where sport really changed my life, for the past 15 years my job has involved, talking about and watching sport, I mean how could I ever feel lost doing that. Sport has allowed me to travel the world, meet and interview sporting icons that I never thought I’d ever lay eyes on when I was studying computer programming. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with coding, it was just never my passion.
And so knowing first hand just exactly how sport changes lives, last year I started the OG Molefe Foundation. A program that would form a direct response to the growing number of young people that are falling through the cracks at school. Our goal was to identify youths who are going to have a turbulent transition to adulthood and offer them positive support system to avoid the pitfalls. And we were going to to do so, through the sport of golf.
We identified a project in Meadowlands, Soweto which is run by the Rhulani Mabasa Foundation. They had basically taken an old dumping site and turned it into a makeshift sports complex. In a bid to assist them, and hopefully unearth a future champion, we hosted a number of clinics where we donated golf clubs and apparel from TaylorMade South Africa and adidas.
In pursuit of upgrading the facility we decided to host a fundraising golf day. And while looking for sponsorship for the day, we realised that golf alone was not going to be the catalyst for change in the kids’ lives.
And so we decided the foundation would focus on three key areas:
- Education: This program would include helping end educating the youth after school with tailored assistance with homework and studying.
- Sporting: Through the coaching of the Rhulani Mabasa Children’s Foundation and our friends at TaylorMade and adidas, we created a coaching and practice program for the children for after school to help them grow and develop their skills.
- Feeding scheme : We planned to also provide food for the children after school and give them a meal per day.
We were then fortunate to to be offered funding to the tune of half a million rand by a multinational tech company.
They were in the space of building small technology hubs and so our vision was a perfect fit for them to build one of those for us and they would also foot the bill for the refurbishment of the entire facility.
But sadly all those promises never materialised due to some unforeseen circumstances. Our golf day went very well for an inaugural event. But once again, promises of payments that never made it to our bank account left us having to foot most of the bills relating to hosting the event from our own pockets.
These setbacks we heartbreaking and demoralising, but to quote a very famous sporting cliche, we had to go back to the drawing board.
And so instead of trying to fix everything all at once, we have opted to take things one step at a time in 2019.
Through donations from some good samaritans we’ve been able to secure a large container which we have transformed into a kitchen. And now the process to raise funds to buy another container is well underway and that one will be converted into a library and homework centre.
But we haven’t forgotten about the initial reason for starting the foundation. We will continue to get the kids at our foundation golf coaching through a partnership we’ve formed with the World of Golf in Johannesburg.
We still believe in the power of sport and its ability to change lives.
The world of sport is littered with stories of athletes who’ve suffered setbacks, been beaten, knocked out, only to make a great comeback. And so with the many lessons we learned during our difficult first year, we’re up, we’ve dusted ourselves off and will continue changing lives, one swing at a time.
For more information on the foundation: