Day nine of our trip marked our visit to the Grassroots Soccer in Alexandra, the oldest township of Johannesburg.
Zoe O presented on Grassroots Soccer and offers a reflection on the day here:
I must admit that this morning did not go exactly as planned in the girls’ room. No one was too thrilled about hopping out of bed after a rude awakening to a 5 am alarm, which we still cannot figure out why it had been set considering we didn’t have breakfast until 8. Some of us struggled to find our way out from under our covers, while others of us struggled with finding misplaced socks or trying to remember where we packed our extra toothpaste. We all felt pretty grumpy as we threw on our sneakers and packed our things for the day ahead, but eventually we all made it out the door. Although we may have had somewhat of a bumpy start, the day took a turn as soon as we began our walk to breakfast. The sun shone bright, warming our skin and reminding us of where we are and the happy and exciting adventures that lie ahead.
After eating breakfast with the group, we grabbed our journals and headed to the bus to begin our drive to Grassroots Soccer in the Alexandra Township. We had a new tour guide today, who shared an interesting background of the township, explaining to us the history of how it began and why it is significant. As we got closer, I started to look over my notes to remind myself of what I had researched on Grassroots before I presented to the group. In my presentation I explained that Grassroots Soccer in an international adolescent health organization that uses soccer as a way of engaging and inspiring kids, as well as teaching them valuable lessons. The coaches at Grassroots use an activity based approach to help kids in nearby schools better understand how to live a healthy lifestyle.
Although I had a pretty good understanding of the organization before we arrived, participating in the program first hand was a moving and incredible experience. There were about 20 coaches who mentor children from all around, giving them a safe space to talk, laugh and play. The coaches welcomed us with smiling faces, excited to share Grassroots with us. Our group was expecting to play soccer with some of the adolescents who participate in the programs, however, we ended up being the participants ourselves. We completed a variety of fun activities, all of which connected to living healthy lifestyles and bettering ourselves as human beings. There were so many important lessons that we all took out of today, but what I found to be the most incredible about this program is the ways in which it provides so many children with a safe space and a family. I left Grassroots today feeling completely inspired by the work that is being done and the way this program is used to transform the lives of so many young kids in South Africa.
NMH Soccer had a strong showing on the day, with Lila Flynn, current member of NMH’s girls’ varsity soccer team, and Chris Wade and Caswell Nilsen, current coaches for NMH, joining in on the activities.
Arthur and Nishan were two star players during our scrimmage, and they reflect on the visit here:
After looking forward to this day for a while, we woke up energetic and excited to learn about Grassroots Soccer. After a scenic 45 minutes of driving, we arrived at the Grassroots Soccer facilities, and we were greeted by smiles. After a quick tour of the building, we went inside and began some ice-breaker games. The friendly faces made us feel welcomed immediately amongst a room of 25 people. Soon into the name games, we saw our entire class laughing and interacting with the coaches. We were surprised by the teenagers’ confidence and their willingness to make us feel at home. Soon enough, we all acted as if we had been friends for a while. Although we enjoyed talking and playing ice-breakers, we couldn’t wait to get on the pitch.
Before scrimmaging, we participated in a drill that educated us about the risks of HIV through soccer. These drills showed us how an individual’s choices can affect your entire community, dispelling the common misconception that a choice only affects yourself. The drill was split into three rounds, representing the consequences of HIV. In every round, we had to dribble the ball through cones. If you hit the cone in the first round, the participant would have to do five jumping jacks. In the second round, if you hit a cone, your whole team had to do the exercise. In the final round, every single person on the field had to the exercise.
After the drill, we got a chance to bond with everyone during a scrimmage, using the universal language of soccer. After a long pick-up game, we ate a traditional South African meal. Once we said our goodbyes, we reflected on the significance of this activity. An idea as simple as soccer can educate kids about HIV and bring communities from across the world together. : ]
At night, students spent their study hall reading their history text, Helen Suzman: Bright Star in a Dark Chamber, for class with Caswell Nilsen. Here is a view of the sunset at the HeronBridge Retreat:
Day ten marked the culmination of our historical, religious and literary coursework with a visit to the world-renowned Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg. Nishan presented on the museum for the group:
Chris Dye and Thomas wrote of the experience:
Today, we visited the Apartheid Museum, which we have been progressing towards in our education about apartheid in the previous week and a half. When we entered, everyone in our group was given a status on our entry ticket, either “white” or “non-white.” Based on our status, we entered through separate doorways to reach the exhibits. As we progressed through the museum, the information within confirmed our previous research and taught us more. With the visual and aural aides, we could imagine ourselves in the situations that many experienced during the Apartheid Era. We were also able to understand the roots of white dominance in South Africa starting in the 18th century progressing to the modern day. While in the museum, we were appalled at the conditions non-white citizens faced daily with oppression, as well as at the absolute stubbornness of the minority government. We also felt a sense of amazement at the sheer pertinacity of Nelson Mandela and other ANC (African National Congress) members despite constant abuse and persecution. Overall, the museum introduced a new perspective and more knowledge, and it was able to induce emotions within us.
The museum was both challenging and rewarding, and many students remarked that it was their most memorable learning experience with apartheid so far. To reflect further on the experience, students journaled about the journey up to this juncture, and in particular, how the trip has resonated with their identities as NMH students. We will share some of those reflections, as well as more journals, in the next blog post.
Tomorrow, we depart for the final stage of our trip at Pilanesberg Game Reserve!