Dare I say it? Summer finally seems to be coming here in Grabouw! Yippeee! The past few weeks it has been absolutely gorgeous weather and everywhere is turning so colourful with spring setting in. This weekend, we went camping in the beautiful Slanghoek valley and did a team triathlon to celebrate Emma’s birthday (her idea!). It is honestly one of the most beautiful places I have been in South Africa, and the weather on the Sunday was gorgeous – even if I did resent it being 30degrees when running through vineyards on sand! J In day to day life, it is such an amazing blessing to be sure every day that we’re going to be able to get out to sports in the afternoon with the improving weather. Hopefully, gone are the days when we had to sit on tender hooks and play weather forecaster every afternoon to see if we can make it out to the kids.
As the weeks go by, we are really seeing massive increases in the numbers of kids coming along to our clubs every afternoon. When the sports outreach side of Village of Hope was started by Tim, it was apparently a good session if they had 10 kids come along. Now, it seems that word of the clubs is travelling like wildfire, and if you only get 10 come along to a session, we are surprised by such a low number! Even clubs which when I first arrived here were quite small seem to be growing week by week, none the more evident than with our Thursday club. 2 weeks ago, Emma and I had 8 girls come along to Netball, and yet this week we were amazed to see 20 girls come along, and more who showed up too late to play! Additionally, a new club that was started by some on the mentors on a Monday, which initially had small numbers, seems to also be growing week by week. Every day we hand out collector cards to the kids over 9 years old who come along to the clubs. Each week we have a total of 250 of the cards to give out, and incredibly we are now finding we get to Thursday and it’s a case of having to photocopy and find every single card in order to make sure we have enough cards to go around. Taking the under 9s into account, we are confident that we are reaching around 350+ kids across 6 clubs in 4 days. God is indeed doing some amazing work in growing the scale of the outreach here!
In there being such large numbers, we are faced with some obvious ‘problems’. When you plan for 20 girls and then 40 girls show up, the nice neat session plan that I sit down and write up on a Friday morning usually goes out the window and we have to adapt a lot of the practices so that the girls aren’t standing around doing nothing. “But didn’t you do ‘PE teaching’ as a degree?” I hear you cry! As much as my degree is being put to the test, and hours spent in Teaching and Coaching lectures, (which I thought I’d never get back) coming into play, we are of course talking about huge numbers, when you still only have 2 netballs, one set of netball posts and some bibs. And of course the fact that I don’t speak a word of Xhosa or Afrikaans. In that, I am always so in awe and grateful for the work our sports mentors. But, having “too many girls” is such an amazing problem to be faced with. As much as my degree is telling me that the hour we spend in the afternoon with these girls should run like clockwork, actually I think that more and more I am realising that just being there, having fun with the girls, however crazy that may be, is an incredible way of showing love and building up these girls. It appears that at the moment, whether it be down to the improving weather or just the clubs growing as word spreads, we are going to have to get used to dealing with big numbers and get used to thinking on our feet a lot more.
We also have an exciting day coming up this week – Sports Saturday! On the 2nd November, we are going to be taking 200 of the boys and girls who come to our 6 clubs to the Country Club, and have a day of Netball and Football tournaments. Village of Hope has run loads of these events in the past, and we have been telling the kids for weeks that one is coming up. Unfortunately, because there is no way we would be able to accommodate all 300+ kids over the age of 9 that come to our clubs across the week at the event, we had to cap the number at just 200, and make sure that we gave forms to the kids that we see week in, week out. Such is the popularity of Sports Saturday, that when it came to handing out the forms at the clubs, we were literally being mobbed as we tried to give the forms out. Kids that got the forms were over the moon, and it was hard to see the kids who didn’t look disappointed. We had to make sure that we explained to them what was going on, and that if they kept coming and were committed, they would be at the next one. On the forms, we had to make sure that we wrote in colour pens – it is not unheard of for these kids to go away, photocopy the forms and give them to their friends, so that on the actual morning as we go round collecting the kids, we may still be turning ones with “fake” forms away.
It really showed to me what it means to these kids to be able to go to a one day tournament. Being picked up on a coach, driven to the beautiful scenery of the Country Club, being given a kit to wear, and playing on beautiful grass with real goals: most of us who have grown up in the Western world would take all of that for granted. These kids grow up in tin shacks, have only a few clothes, have to play on broken glass and sand every week and the only ride they get is the school bus or maybe jumping on the back of a bakkie. For them, this Saturday is really going to be like playing in the FA Cup Final at Wembley. I’m sure that, no matter how much planning we have done, it is going to be a pretty crazy day, but how amazing to think that whatever happens, just taking those kids to that venue and organising a day of sport for them is so much more than they are used to. I am super excited to be able to bless them and have a fun day! I look forward to writing about it in my next blog!