Youth Day in Ga-Seleka
Hey everybody, Ben here. Just wanted to write a bit about a fun and inspiring event that took place a few weekends ago in Ga Seleka (where Paul and Jess live).
HIV/AIDS has ravaged much of Africa and South Africa is truly no exception. In our village we commonly bare witness to 1-3 funerals a week (sometimes more). While some of this hardship has been brought on by other causes (e.g. car accidents, old age, etc. ) many deaths have been attributed to “sickness”. This “sickness” is either not fully examined or is just not truly explained to the public. We suspect many are actually suffering and dying from the affects of the virus here in Abbot’s Poort.
Taken from a South African governmental website one finds that “more than 5 million South Africans are living with HIV, more than in any other country in the world. Studies project that by the year 2010, this toll could reach 10 million, and South Africa’s GDP could be reduced by more than 17 percent as a result of the disease.”
It is also true that many patients who the Abbotspoort Home Based Care Group serves have been diagnosed with TB. TB is often linked with HIV/AIDS but must be treated before ARV drugs can be administered (if they are needed.)
With this being said, there is a organization that has been formed here in South Africa called Love Life. Love Life is South Africa’s National HIV prevention programme for young people. Love Life has truly taken on a life of its own working positively in youth around the country. We have heard of it promoting healthy lifestyles through presentations in the schools, as well as through larger events like the Love Life Games in Ga Seleka.
Paul and Jess invited Rachel, Brandon, Suz and me up to their place to “help where needed” during the games. These took place on a Saturday so we ventured north on Friday after school to enjoy the company of the Vig’s and Johnson’s a night a head of time. (Always an enjoyable experience. Who knew curried potatoes and home baked bread could taste so good.)
In the morning we headed over to the local high school. Here we encountered so many wonderful people. It felt as though the whole village was getting involved. Many woman spent the whole of the morning and much of the afternoon preparing the food which was served after the indoor program. Children and youth began arriving by the police-van-full. (The police had volunteered to tour the surrounding villages and to provide transport to those in need.)
The program itself lasted from around 11 am to 3 in the afternoon. The girls (Suz, Jess, and Rachel) were asked to manage the sign-in lists to make sure that all who attended were recorded, Paul was the “official” photographer and Brandon and I were placed by the front door to act as the “bouncers”. We where told to point the hoards of people who crowded around the door to see the program to the windows along the sides of the hall. The room was packed and the sound system pumped dance music at unbelievable volumes between speeches, dances, songs and empowered testimonials. After the program was finished and food was consumed we headed out to the sports fields.
Brandon and Ben, the official Love Life Games “bouncers
Netball, volleyball, and soccer were the games of choice and teams had arrived from many different villages ready to play (uniforms and all). Ga Seleka has a small, but nice sports complex with paved netball and volleyball courts.
The Americans took a few minutes before the games began to toss around a Frisbee in an open field next to the complex. On our way out to the field I was stopped and asked if we played volleyball and would be willing to play as a fifth team in the tournament. I love volleyball and so does Brandon, both of us playing on intramural teams throughout college and were itching to get back on the court. Considering that the whole group of us enjoy athletic activities we agreed, even though we are a bit rusty and haven’t actually played together before.
We watched the volleyball games unfold and quickly realized that we had our work cut out for us. Eventually we were called out. We offered the option to mix up the teams and to just play a match with integrated teams (American and SA together) but they didn’t go for that. So the game was on.
My favorite comment for the days was Brandon’s, “We’re not really a team ,we’re just a bunch of Americans,” as he tried to explain that we were in it for the joy of playing, not for the competition. (It might be interesting to note, we did look a bit like team given the set of free t-shirts we all were wearing.)
“We’re not really a team, we’re just a bunch of Americans.”
Our games went fast as the score was quickly adjusted giving us a considerable handy-cap. (Not by our choice, but what can you do?) I nicely jammed my thumb early on in the game so it was painful bumps and spikes for the rest of the game. In the end, we “won” after just starting to get warmed up. Oh well at least we got to play a bit.
As we headed back to Paul and Jess’s from the games, Susie became captivated by a litter of energetic puppies behind a fence at the shop next to the taxi rank. She was so captivated in fact that she didn’t pay attention to the older and rather more aggressive dog who was hanging out with the pups. Suz walked away with a nice little nip on her hand, mainly a tug on the skin but it did draw some blood.
The Barr-Wilsons left the day a little beat up, but as a whole the day was tremendous. Go Love Life, a job well done!
FYI: The thumb and nip are both healing well, so no worries there.
Two girls jump for the ball in the netball tournament.
(Netball is a basically a blend of basketball and ultimate frisbee–you’re trying to make baskets, but you can’t move with the ball and must pass it up and down the court).
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