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We are three guys from the Isle of Wight that are flying to South Africa to work alongside other football fanatics as part of an organisation known as Lionsraw. South Africa 2010 is the debut Lionsraw Special Project. Lionsraw is taking a 130 strong squad of football fans to Durban, South Africa for two weeks during the World Cup. The Lionsraw team will operate in ‘The Valley of a Thousand Hills'', the epicentre of the World's HIV / AIDS crisis. Alongside existing local charities the team will help in ‘construction projects' and ‘soccer academies' for deprived local children during the day. Each evening the squad will retire to our fanzone for the full world cup tour experience.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Day Fourteen – final goodbyes from South Africa

Well done England! Another fine, professional, winning, performance. A star turn at the beginning and some dogged efficiency at the end to see the job through. It is wonderful to follow an England team that can win. A team that can take on the old, old enemy – where there is so much history, so much pressure, so much at stake – and finish the job off successfully – almost ruthlessly. Another great England victory. Well done the Barmy Army. Well done Andy Strauss.
It’s a real shame that the England football team couldn’t learn something from the England cricket team and beat Germany in the way that the cricketers beat Australia.
So, the Lionsraw team leaves South Africa tomorrow with an unbeaten record on the football pitch and having made new friends and improved the lives of many, many people. It’s possible we’ll be on the same flight as the footballers, but I know which end of the plane I’m prouder of.
Len, Steve and I would like to say a huge thank you to everybody who helped to raise funds to send us on this trip. We feel hugely privileged to have been able to work in the Valley of a Thousand Hills, with some wonderful, wonderful people. Thank you to Ryde Elim Church, to Ryde Methodist Church and to AJ Wells, in particular for your fantastic support.
This is our last blog from South Africa. There will probably be just one more addition to this blog when we get back to the UK, to upload some great video clips which we weren’t able to upload from South Africa. Don’t forget to watch Match of the Day on July 7th when you’ll see a report about Lionsraw, including interviews with Jon Burns and Russell and Precious.
We hope that you have enjoyed reading about our exploits and if you feel inspired to get involved with Lionsraw, then please make contact via the official website at www.Lionsraw.org where you can sign up for Brazil in 2014 or make a donation.

“We’re moving on to Brazil, but not leaving South Africa.” Jon Burns, founder of Lionsraw

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Day Thirteen – Last day on-site


Today was hard work, both physically and emotionally. Eight of us went back to Russell and Precious’s house for the final push to get as much done as possible. John completed the rendering the top of both gable ends, but we ran out of fine sand and he was only able to do a scratch coat. He did manage to tidy up the back wall which had been rushed on Thursday.
Finally, he filled in the holes we’d had to smash in the end walls to support our makeshift scaffolding. As always, he was ably supported by Frank and Len on mixing duty.
Martin J and Steve did a great job of tidying up the site and we managed to fix up timber on the end of the roof joists to support the guttering, when it arrives. As with almost every other day, we started with high hopes of completing the steps/patio but left without quite completing the final concreting.
Today was probably the hottest day we’ve had in South Africa (I believe that it is quite warm in the UK as well at the moment) so we were all exhausted when the sun started to set.
We leave behind a very large barn, with good foundations, walls and roof. Lionsraw have a small team staying on in Durban to co-ordinate the final work on each of the projects. Although there is still a lot to do before Russell, Precious and the kids can move in, Lionsraw plan to have this work completed within the next two weeks and are negotiating with local builders to help. The Match of the Day cameras will be on-site on July 6th, so we look forward to seeing how much has been finished off by then.
Neil, Debbie and Alexandra Flint stopped en-route this morning to purchase a huge mountain of fruit and vegetables for Russell and Precious. The Flint family have firmly adopted the Sithembakuye project and will be back at Christmas, so if the step needs any more attention, I’m sure that Neil will be straight onto it.
As we were finishing off work today, a couple of very hungry young boys came to the house and Russell fed them and gave them some of the shirts which Len had left. It became clear that the two boys were living in terrible conditions with their Grandmother (Gogo) unable to cope. Russell spoke to their Gogo who allowed us to visit the home she has built, to see exactly how desperate live in the Valley can be.
About 400 yards from Russell and Precious, they live in two small mud huts with no electricity and no water and a very meagre pile of possessions. The round hut is not waterproof and washes away when it rains, so they have to sleep on the floor in the smaller hut until it can be rebuilt. One of the boys recently got sick and had to spend three months in hospital, probably due to smoke inhalation from the small fire which burns in the centre of the round house for cooking, warmth and light. Gogo receives 250Rand per month from the Government which only covers the cost of transporting the kids to school. There is nothing left over for food and it will be seven years before she qualifies for a state pension.
This really is the bottom of the pile and we were all hugely shocked to see the state of the family. Russell has promised to do all he can to look after the boys, so it looks as if the extra space at Sithembakuye has arrived just in time.

Friday, 25 June 2010

Day Twelve - rest day

We had a final meeting all together this morning and Jon Burns read out a letter of thanks from Russell and Precious at Sithembakuye


To: Flint Families, Burns Families, Lions Raw Team and friends
We like to thank you for the building that you built for us, the gifts, stationaries and cloths for keep us warm in winter and for the joy that you brought in Sithembakuye.
We cannot show or express our happiness but deeply inside we are blessed to have a wonderfull and caring people like you in our lives. Even our youth community is over the moon as they have soccer kits for guys and ladies playing kits including poles for netball. What can we ask more if we have wonderfull people who knows how to dress a body of a man with no clothes and feed a stomach of a hungry child and give love to everybody and make them their special friends.
We will never forget you and your memories will never dies in our hearts.
God bless you all
From
Precious & Russell

There wasn't a dry eye in the house.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Day Eleven - Happy Birthday Paul


Len, Steve & I are enjoying a wonderful experience in South Africa: changing lives, playing and watching football, making new friends. Each of us owes this opportunity to Paul Meredith, Pastor of Ryde Elim Church, who signed up for this trip before any of us, but was cruelly prevented from travelling due to illness. We all wish Paul was here with us and we continue to pray for his full recovery. Friday is Paul’s birthday, so it seems appropriate to let him know that he is not forgotten. Lionsraw are building new changing rooms at Inchanga School and these are dedicated to Paul. Inchanga School has 1,000 pupils and the current facilities are completely inadequate, so this project will make a real difference to all these children. You may remember that we visited Inchange School to help with the feeding programme on Tuesday.
The building materials for this project were paid for by AJ Wells (www.ajwells.com) who have been massively supportive of the Lionsraw work. Thanks guys.


At Russell & Precious’s house, today was the last day on-site for the full team. Although there will be at least six of us back in-site on Saturday for one last day, the professionals are heading home and it feels that the sun is setting on our South African adventure. Everybody worked doubly hard today, despite scorching heat, and we managed to get the roof finished and all the walls rendered. Phil and John, in particular, put in a massive shift up on the roof fixing all the tin. Paul D completed the last of the blockwork at the gable ends and Paul M and Neil did a fantastic job to get the rendering (almost) finished. Paul even took time out to show me how to do some rendering and although he was very kind about my efforts, I suspect that he could have better used the time it took him to sort it out afterwards. Steve and Neil’s step / patio isn’t quite complete, but half a dozen of us will be back on Saturday to help them with one last push to the finish line.
It has been a real pleasure to work with the team at Sithembayaku: although we all have different skills and abilities, everybody has worked really hard and done all they can to get the build as near to completion as possible.



There has been plenty of banter, but very few cross words, so huge respect to:
Phil ‘the gaffer’ Hillsdon
Chris Agar
Simon Close
Frank Siddle
Neil Flint
Paul Davison
Chris Hearn
Les Hauxwell
Paul Martin
Martin James
Len Hill
Steve Goodall
Martin Boyce

It would have been wonderful if we’d had more equipment; if the water hadn’t dried up at the most inconvenient times; if the electricity had been always available – but these frustrations are daily battles in the Valley and the consequences are far more serious for the residents. We have always managed to overcome and the experience has taught us a great deal. Russell and Precious and their kids have been wonderfully inspirational and to see the joy in their faces makes all the aches and pains fade away.

We’ve posted our favourite pictures onto the blog, but we have taken literally thousands over the past couple of weeks and Len has posted hundreds of them onto his facebook site. So if you use facebook, search for Len Hill and you can catch up with more behind-the-scenes footage.











Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Day Ten - back on site










Today we were back on site and the race is on to get as much finished as we possibly can before the weekend. Thanks for all your prayers, as they delivered us a brilliant solution to the scaffolding problem. We used hammers and screwdrivers to knock holes in the end walls which supported lengths of timber as makeshift scaffolding. Both Pauls bravely clambered up onto this structure and managed to build most of the end gables. Phil and John practised their gymnastics on the roof trusses to fix the insulation foil and pearling. At the end of the day, we had three sections of tin in place.
























Steve and Neil continued to work on their steps / patio and, amazingly, it scrubbed up really well just in time for the arrival of the TV cameras from SABC. Jon Burns was interviewed about the work which Lionsraw is doing in South Africa and the clip will feature on South African TV in the next few days. Jon is booked to return to Russell and Precious’s house for an interview with the BBC Match of the Day team on July 6th – to be aired on July 7th during coverage of the semi-final in Durban. Various members of the Lionsraw team have been interviewed for radio stations and newspapers in the UK, so hopefully more people will learn about the positive legacy we’re going to leave in South Africa. Who knows, perhaps some will be inspired to get involved for the next Lionsraw project in Brazil in 2014.


After work today there wasn’t time to get back into Durban before the England game kicked-off, so all the Lionsraw project teams met up in the On Cue snooker hall to watch the game. It was great to see a bit more spirit from the England team and we definitely outplayed Slovenia, but typically, we spurned countless chances and kept everybody sweating until the final whistle. It’s great that England are through to the next round, but all the missed chances cost us first place in the Group as the USA team snatched a winner in the 94th minute of their game.
As I write this, history is being made in Wimbledon, where Mahut and Isner are locked in combat at 59 games all in the fifth set. All sorts of records are tumbling, for the longest game, longest set, most aces, but the most amazing aspect of these heroics is the fact that they have replaced the Germany game in the Lionsraw FanZone! When the tennis was finally called off the day, we learnt that Germany had won, so it is England against Germany on Sunday. This should be a fantastic finale to our last day in South Africa.
Tomorrow is the last day that we’ll have the full team on-site, and we have a huge amount left to do, so please continue to pray for the work we’re doing. We are all exhausted, but desperate to get as much done as we possibly can before we return home.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Days 8 & 9 building, eating & playing footie

After the frustrations with power and water on Sunday, we were back on track pretty quickly on Monday morning as Geoff and Derek brought us a main fuse, fresh supplies of gangnail plates (for the roof trusses) and washing-up liquid (for the render mix).
























The builders set to work with the rendering and managed to complete the second end wall. Steve and Neil continued work on the steps / patio and confidently decided to branch out with the foundations for a ramp. The labourers set about banging together the remaining roof tresses and fixing them in place. This was quite a challenge without decent scaffolding, but we got a bit of a chain gang working as we shifted blocks around. Phil, Paul and Chris risked life and limb clambering up the blocks to bang in strengthening braces and at the end of our sixth working day on-site we had all the roof trusses fixed in place.



























As soon as we got back to the hotel, we had a very quick shower and then a group of about 30, headed out to the Cargo Hold restaurant. Neil and Debbie organised the meal as a treat Russell and Precious, who hadn’t been out for a meal together for two years. Precious’s mother kindly looked after the children although Russell said that they never sleep unless he or Precious are in the house.
As the name may suggest, the Cargo Hold restaurant is built in the guts of a derelict container ship. This may not sound like the most inspiring setting, but it was wonderful and we all sat next to a huge aquarium containing three menacing-looking sharks. The food was great and although Les felt that his ostrich could have spent longer by the fire, my Dorado fish was wonderful.


Day 9 - Tuesday

Although today was our rest day, a coachload of builders and footballers went back into the Valley to join a feeding programme run by Caroline at Inchanga School. Caroline looks after forty orphans and vulnerable children in the Valley (check out http://trailblazinginsouthafrica.blogspot.com) This morning we helped to give out food and books to more than sixty kids. All the kids queued very politely to receive a sandwich, cake, banana and drink, but it was very clear just how hungry they were as Mike was nearly trampled underfoot when he offered seconds. Once they had eaten, all the kids were given a bag with a tin of beans and a bag of porridge, plus a reading book and football cards.
Some of these kids are homeless and rely heavily on Caroline’s programme. Even within families, there is not much to go around. According to a report in the Durban Daily News today, some farmworkers in the Valley earn just R900 per month. To put this in perspective, it means that they would need to work for one and half days to be able to afford a box of 200 teabags from the local spar shop. Take a couple of moments to work out how long you have to work to afford a box of teabags and then remember this next time you put the kettle on.





With all the talk of football, many of the building teams have been itching to get their boots on. We had our chance this morning in a challenge match organised against a local side at Sithembye. The pitch was built into the side of one of the thousand hills and was actually quite level, although two sides were bordered by very steep drops. Closer inspection revealed that the pitch itself was divided into three separate terrains: there was a wide stretch of dirt and sand down the left wing; a large patch of burnt scrubland and mud around the centre circle and a dense jungle area encroaching the right wing. In fact, I expect that it plays a little like the new turf at Wembley.
The local side proposed thirty-five minutes each way, but with the sun high in the sky, we settled on two games of twenty five minutes each. First off, the team from the HatTrick project in Newcastle represented LionsRaw. The game was tight, with both sides closing space and defending stoutly. There were few chances and at nil-nil it was all set for penalties. Lionsraw edged it 5-4 on penalties thanks to a great save from the Geordie keeper.
With the locals nicely warmed up, the builders took to the field more in hope than expectation. We soaked up some early pressure and then in our first move upfield, Len slid the ball through to Stevie G who smashed home. We worked hard to keep our noses in front, with some solid defending and some acrobatic tumbles from Les ‘the Cat’ in goal. We were proud to maintain Lionsraw’s perfect record on tour and even happier to give away our match shirts at the end.


After the games, we walked up the hill to Russell and Precious’ house where they had organised a barbeque for all the local community. We were treated to traditional zulu dancing and had a great party with the kids from the choir, netball team and football team. Les earned the highest Zulu honour – his very own nickname, ‘Sdudla’. Les likes to think that it means “the wise one”, but we know that it is “the wide one”.



We didn’t get back to Durban in time to watch South Africa’s game from the FanFest on the beach and decided that we didn’t really have time to go to the Nigeria v Korea match in Durban tonight. But, for us, this World Cup is more about participation than spectating and we’re really happy that we played our part this afternoon.


Our challenge tomorrow is to put on the roof insulation, pearling and tin. We’re all hoping that Phil ‘the gaffer’ has dreamt up another inspiring plan, because at first glance it looks pretty much impossible. We have a couple of sections of rickety scaffolding and a few concrete blocks, yet somehow we’ll have to find a way to get the roof fixed on during our last two days.
But, this is Africa, and if the building work has taught us anything in the past ten days, it is the power of faith, perseverance and ingenuity. It may not be orthodox, but necessity is the mother of invention and we’ll always find a way. We have overcome some tricky problems already and I am confident that we’ll be successful tomorrow. Are you listening, Fabio?

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Day Six - Life in the Valley

Doesn't Siphiwe have the best smile you've ever seen?



























Today, we had another taste of the day-to-day struggles of life in the Valley. We got ourselves well set for a productive day on-site – with a brand new circular saw and the very welcome addition of a cement mixer. However, we only managed a couple of loads before the cement mixer blew up the main fuse to Russell & Precious’ house. The electric company came out pretty quickly and sent a guy shinning up the telegraph pole outside the house, but being a Sunday, we were unable to get a new fuse. Les rigged something up to get the lights working (best not to ask how), but there was no power for the mixer, saw or cooker. To compound our problems, the water supply failed for most of the morning, so we couldn’t even mix by hand. We take water and electricity very much for granted in the UK, but here in the Valley they are a constant struggle. The water quality is excellent and we’re drinking it straight from the tap with no problems, but in the Valley it regularly dries up, which makes life a real struggle.

Thankfully, “One Lintel Les” showed that he is a man of many talents, by re-wiring the main house and getting light back into the lounge. (By the way, he asked me to let his wife, Jacquie, know that he is well and enjoying himself).
















Before we left home, Shellie and Anya (Len’s wife and daughter) worked very hard to put together a photobook, showing life in the UK. Len went through the photos this morning with Russell and Precious and the kids. It was quite a challenge explaining how the hovercraft works, but Len did his best. The kids were thrilled to see the pictures of snow and wished they lived closer to the sea. The pictures that they were given will be going up on the walls in the bedrooms of the new building. The photobook was well received by Russell when he realised that he was allowed to keep it!
Len also presented Russell and Precious with a number of letters that the children at Anya’s school had written to the children at the orphanage. Russell has said that they will be laminated to protect them and then given to the children to take to school. In return Len will be bringing home some pictures that the children have been drawing today.
Thanks Shellie and Anya for your hard work.


A few people have asked us about the names of the children, so here we go:
Bonginkosi (Bo) aged 17 – studying tourism and hoping to become an accountant
Samkele aged 15 – studying tourism and hoping to do engineering or accountancy
Khehla (11) is wearing a grey V neck jumper in the photos taken today
Siphiwe (10) is wearing all blue
Tando (10) is wearing a denim skirt
Thulisile (10) is dressed in red and has red hearing aids
Philasande (5) is dressed all in pink
Zama (4) has grey tracksuit bottoms and a flowery top
Olwethu (2) is wearing a black top.
I hope that this will help you to identify the children in the photographs. Just to confuse you, there are a few other children in the pictures who attend the crèche during the day, but don’t live permanently with Russell and Precious.
In addition, Samkelisiwe (14), Zinhle (12), Sihle (11) and Siyanda (3) are all visiting relatives at the moment, but will be back at the house soon.


Despite the problems with water and power, we made some progress today. Paul, John and Neil managed to render one wall. Steve helped Les with the re-wiring. Frank supervised Tando, Thulisile and Philasande shovelling the sand. The rest of us put together the roof trusses and decided that banging in hundreds of gangnail plates has replaced mixing as the toughest job on-site.

We had a short service of thanksgiving / prayer meeting this evening, before the Brazil v Ivory Coast game. It is clear that God has blessed us with this opportunity to make a difference. For many of us, it is a humbling chance to turn our faith into something concrete.

We’ve slipped into a workday routine now: the alarm goes at 5:55; breakfast is 6:30; coach leaves at 7:00; we arrive at site soon after 8:00 and work until 4:30; the coach gets us back to the hotel soon after 6:00; shower; meal at 7:00; watch the evening game while sorting photos, then skype and post blog. Tomorrow, we’re back on-site during the day, but we’re all taking Russell and Precious out for a meal in the evening, so it’s unlikely that I’ll get a chance to post an update. I’ll get some more photos on-line as soon as I can on Tuesday.

We're tired and missing family, but happy that we're doing something worthwhile.