Archive for the ‘sports’ Category

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On August 17th I embarked on the journey of a lifetime to Cape Town, South Africa for two weeks.  I thought the trip would have been all about building a community center.  To be honest, the actual community center was secondary.  It was a ray of hope and provided a sense of community for the locals.  It was about being a positive influence on the young children, who have experienced more hardship in their short lives than most do in their lifetimes.  It was about helping out the stray dogs, and “adopting” them on the site as if they were our own.  Although my time there was short, I know I had a positive influence on the children, dogs, volunteers, and the building site in general.

My time in South Africa was nothing short of life changing.  The bonds I made with the other volunteers, my house family, Deen, and the children are everlasting.  I will never forget the times I had and will ensure I let the moments I shared have a positive influence on my life and others around me.

I could have not asked for a more amazing end to my journey to 30 Deeds over the past year.  However, in reality, it is not the end of the journey….It is  just the beginning of a lifetime dedicated to giving.

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Today, as usual, I spent an equal amount of time building as I did with the kids.  I mixed cement and continued plastering the wall from last week.  It was a beautiful day and the children were happy and crazy as the usually are (so was I).  Over the last week, I noticed they all love swinging in the swings but are not very good at sharing.  Each day is filled with constant arguments over who gets the swings.  I came up with a system that each child gets pushed 10 times before switching and they all have to count out loud.  It seemed to work and it was a good learning experience for some of them too!

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Happy Swinging! If you look close, you can see the girl in the background counting!

Unfortunately this beautiful day was marred by a darker side of township life.  A group of kids, the oldest probably about 10 and the youngest about 4 brought a cat into the bush behind the job site.  While there, they either let the pit bull that was with them maul the cat or they killed it themselves.  As an animal lover it makes me angry, but dog fighting and gangs are just a way of life in the townships(albeit a sick one).  It does help me realize how important Deen and the volunteers are in the children’s lives to help make sure they don’t grow up on the wrong side of the law.

In more positive news, when I got home, I brought the soccer ball out for the kids in the neighborhood and played for a few hours. I left it with the kids when I went to get dinner at night and they played past dark before returning the ball.  All the kids seemed happy so day 1 with the soccer ball was a success!

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View from the Island

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Tour Guide who was a former prisoner at Robben Island

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View of Nelson Mandela’s tiny cell. The red bucket was his “toilet”.

While visiting South Africa, I felt it was important to learn more about the history of the country to truly appreciate where it is today.  I decided to take a trip to Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela spent 18 years of his life locked away under harsh conditions.  For much of his stay, he slept on  a small mat, used a bucket as  toilet, and was forced to do hard labor.  It is amazing that a man who spent a large portion of his life behind bars, was able to get out and become an instrumental piece in the resurrection of South Africa.  I am very happy I decided to take a trip there and certainly have a greater appreciation for where the country is today.

Before heading home, I stopped in a local sports shop to pick up a soccer ball for the kids that live in the neighborhood where I am staying.  Yesterday, I noticed that they were kicking rocks and tennis balls back and forth to stay entertained so I wanted to do something about it.  Soccer and rugby are the biggest sports here, so a soccer ball was a natural choice.  I also played soccer growing up so I am looking forward to playing with them tomorrow!

When I arrived home I spent the rest of the day with my host family and other volunteers.  My host mother brought out a cake and everyone sang Happy Birthday to the old man :).  Between being humbled by the trip to Robben Island and the celebration with some of the most amazing people I have met, it was quite possibly my best birthday to date.

I start my second week of volunteering tomorrow, more humbled than ever, but just as excited as when I first arrived.

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View of Cape Town from the ferry on the way back.

KEEN is a national, nonprofit volunteer-led organization that provides recreational opportunities for children and young adults with developmental and physical disabilities.  They get children involved in a variety of different activities and basketball2sports, including basketball.

I arrived at Attucks Park in Brooklyn on a gorgeous Saturday morning.  There were plenty of volunteers and lots of children running around having a good time.  After 20 minutes of free time, the athletes were gathered together and separated into three groups.  Each group completed a different drill: shooting, dribbling, and passing.  I spent most of my time with a boy named Julio.  He was a happy kid with tons of energy.  We spent time on the court participating in drills, chasing each other around the court, and having a ball of laughs.  After basketball, we went to the playground next to the court and did more of the same.

For me, this deed was a full circle of sorts.  The first time I volunteered was for a program called “Buddy Ball” in my home town when I was in high school.  Buddy Ball is a sports program for children with disabilities.  It was at that time that I picked up the volunteer bug and knew I wanted to make a difference in the world.  It just took me some time to get back into it.

With 29 deeds completed it is onto number 30 and beyond!