We’ve just finished our first day grafting at the Sithembayaku Children’s Village. For some of us it was the first day of real graft in our lives, but more of that later.
We arrived in Durban yesterday after travelling for 31 hours by hovercraft, taxi, plane and coach. We spent most of our time trying to think of inventive ways to keep track of our Lionsraw bags among the 100 other identical Lionsraw bags.
Eventually, after 11 hours in the air, we were met by Kev and the Lionsraw team at Jo’burg airport.
We had some fun loading all the bags into our coach and ended up stashing most down the gangway so that they wouldn’t be spotted by over-zealous traffic cops. We passed the eight hours in the coach listening to a pretty eclectic mix of musical nastiness – starting with Cliff Richard and heading down hill. We were treated to a movie, but if you ever get the chance to see Mama Jack, I recommend a night in washing your hair.
Jo’burg was buzzing with World Cup fever, but as we headed out of the city, it was quieter but the roads proved to be spectacularly good. As we barrelled down the wide dual carriageway, I was reminded of the US mid-west – the road was perfectly straight and the landscape either side was flat and barren with occasional farm buildings. We passed a couple of large shanty towns which reminded us all of the purpose of our visit.
When we finally reached our hotel, we just had time for a much-overdue shower before we raced out to savour the World Cup atmosphere as Durban hosted it’s first ever World Cup game. The fantastic new stadium proved to be a 25 minute walk along the beachfront – we just followed the sound of the vuvuzwalas. We arrived five minutes before kick-off which proved to be tactically perfect as we all picked up Cat A tickets at less than half their face value and we were ushered so close to the pitch that we thought we’d be sitting on the subs bench.
The game between Germany and Australia gave us peculiar conflicts of dis-loyalty – is there any way that both teams can lose? In the end we decided to support Australia, through gritted teeth, and although they started brightly, the Germans ruthlessly cut through their left flank and it was clear that we’d backed another loser. The Aussies were already two down when Tim Cahill was sent off for a pretty soft lunge and from there on it was damage limitation. In the end the Germans could have had more than their four goals.
The stadium was magnificent and the crowd of 62,650 were a suitably international mix – we spotted Mexicans, Argentinans, Spaniards, Dutch, and even an American. All in all a fantastic start to our trip and if we don’t get to see any more games, it won’t matter at all.
This morning, we started the real work. Lionsraw is undertaking four building projects and seven soccer schools in the next two weeks. Half of the teams arrived with us on Sunday, so we kicked off half of the projects. The rest of the team is arriving today. Coaches took us out through the cosmopolitan Durban suburbs into the beautiful Valley of a Thousand Hills. For most of us, this was our first sight of the real heart of South Africa – unfortunately, it seemed that it was also the first experience for our coach driver, who managed to get completely lost. We asked for directions, but ended up reversing back up the narrowest road I ever want to see in my life, with a sheer vertical drop down one side and a team of well-meaning locals struggling to avoid the wheels behind us.
Eventually we were dropped close to our project at Sithembayaku and we were able to gauge the scale of our task. Russell and Precious care for fourteen kids in their tiny house and do a fabulous job keeping them clothed and fed and schooled. Lionsraw has been helping them for the past couple of years and have provided toys and a toilet block. Now, we are to build a whole new building, where they will be able to look after even more children orphaned due to the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
Russell and Precious and all the kids met us with smiles and hugs and then we got down to work. The foundations were in place thanks to the hard work of the Lionsraw advance party of expert builders last week. A quick glance round the new building team revealed assorted office workers and a plasterer and a plumber. We were faced with four huge piles of blocks, a few bags of cement and a couple of trowels.
We all mucked in and did our best to organise ourselves into teams and soon had a bit of a chain gang working. It was hard, but satisfying work and at the end of the day we’d made new friends, learnt new skills, earned a few blisters and aching muscles and laid four rows of blocks. So, we forgot the doors and had to remove a few blocks. So, the level was more approximate than perfect. So, we had to use a piece of broken tile instead of a trowel. So, it’ll be alright when the professionals turn up tomorrow and we can always cover it up with a final layer of render over the top.
Most importantly, we’ve made a start and we’re definitely changing lives.
- Len Hill, Martin Boyce, Steve Goodall
- 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.