Meet some of the inspirational young people whom ACN SA have supported on their journeys...
1. Bongiwe Nhleko.
Bongiwe Nhleko, or 'Bongi' to my friends, I am 27 years of age and was only five years old when my father died. I was then raised by my grandmother and mum. Having experienced both tragedy and hardship throughout my childhood I found solace in sport, in particular Touch Rugby.
Touch rugby was a constant source of strength for me and my love of playing transferred into my desire of becoming a qualified coach and providing others with the opportunity to play. I enrolled on a coaching course at South Africa's Exercise Teachers Academy. However, tragedy struck again when my mother suffered a stroke meaning I was unable to begin the course. I then decided to coach near my home, at a school called Tswelelang higher primary, so I could give back to my community. I was also working at a supermarket during this time to make ends meet as I was the sole money earner for the family.
From coaching at the school I was offered an exciting opportunity to go to Somerset in England for 6 weeks to exchange knowledge and experience around coaching.
I was invited to attend the Laureus Sport for Good Summit in South Africa where I met Mthokozisi Madonda. He asked me what I wanted to do and I mentioned how I wished to finish my coaching studies with eta college. He paid for my whole studies and despite a challenging period of juggling work at the supermarket and full time studies, I graduated in 2015 with a big smile on my face and pride in my achievement.
Sport has taught me so much about life and how to grab those opportunities offered to you. I realise now you need to open your eyes, grab what's out there and believe you can be someone in life.
I joined the Laureus Youth Empowerment through Sport (YES) program in 2013. YES is one of the exciting ways that the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation is empowering and inspiring youth leaders in Africa to use sport for the good of their communities.
Successful graduates are equipped with technical, vocational, entrepreneurship and life skills needed to develop sustainable livelihoods and initiate social change. YES kept me going through tough times and I was able to share with other young people going through similar experiences . It taught me how to be resilient and how to empower others.
During YES we underwent numerous Sport for Development workshops with ACN SA and I thought to myself "Yes, I get this and I want to do this in my communities!".
Following my graduation from YES I was asked by Maggy and Nicole from ACN SA to train as a facilitator for the next YES intake the following year. Not only that, but also to take their materials and deliver training in communities near where I lived. I facilitated training with some female cricket coaches in Gauging and it felt good putting my learning into action.
I now have a Diploma in Sports Management, and as well as an ACN facilitator, I'm a sports coordinator at Greenside High School. I am ambitious and strong willed, and the key motivator in any team I am part of. I have big dreams and aspirations and would eventually like to launch my own academy to empower woman around Africa. It has been a big privilege and honour to deliver and be trained by ACN SA because it taught me how to step up in life as well as a deep understanding of what sport for development means. I want to use my knowledge to empower as many woman and girls around Africa to achieve their dreams and be resilient.
Sport has changed my life in so many ways; it has taken me to Mozambique, Germany, UK and that is only just the beginning. I ask NOT what the world has in store for me, but what I have in store for the world.
“I ask NOT what the world has in store for me, but what I have in store for the world.”
2. Luqmaan Ismail
I'm from Kuilsriver, near Cape Town. I'm a keen rugby player and grew up with a passion for the sport. I had the privilege of being contracted by the Lions Rugby Club to play for them after high school. After matriculating, I played for three years in Johannesburg and then in France and Scotland. My childhood wasn't easy. Growing up I lived in a house where I felt sport was the only way out. I lost my father when I was nine years old. He committed suicide. I then fell into a heavy depression and later made an attempt to take my own life.
These were dark times for me, but my love of rugby gave me hope and focus to keep going. I left home at the age of 12 to go to a boarding school far away from home, a school where rugby was the xfactor. This was a big turning point as I was able to focus on my sport.
I became a coach with Cool Play in 2014 which was where I discovered Laureus Sport for Good and was selected for the YES program. I met ACN SA when I was YES leader in 2017. They recognised my enthusiasm and motivation to use sport for development within my community, and I talked about how important rugby was for me in helping combat my depression and how I wanted to support others to do the same.
I am passionate about mental health awareness and mentoring other young people who have struggled like I did, I wanted to empower others to have the confidence to speak out about their experiences and access help. YES really enabled that for me as I developed so much personally during that time.
After I graduated YES, ACN SA approached me about leading a workshop with 14 young men from the SA Rugby Academy players in Riebeek West. This was a fantastic opportunity for me but I still needed facilitation skills and to learn the curriculum. ACN SA taught me how to facilitate and I practiced delivering to the new YES leaders the following year. I later delivered 2 sessions to the Rugby Academy, covering a range of topics from the role of a community sports coach and mentoring in the community, to planning a community sports lead activity and engaging with hard to reach young people. I felt confident to share my own experiences with the group and really enjoyed delivering the training.
My passion to help other young people, willingness to learn, understanding of local communities and knowledge about sport for development are just some of the characteristics which I attribute to my successful journey to date. I still work for Cool Play but also support other sport for development organisations across South Africa and in the UK. I look forward to helping many more.
3. Enver Pockpas.
Enver Pockpas is from the Woodside neighbourhood of Cape Town, an area that has seen its fair share of deprivation, unemployment, substance misuse and violence. Enver first became involved with ACN UK in 2008 during our initial Positive Futures project in Cape Town, undertaking our early training and becoming one of our first volunteers in South Africa.
A talented athlete, Enver showed other qualities in his time as a volunteer with us and undertook a leadership programme that included a two week placement with our London team and a memorable half time introduction to the crowd at Chelsea vs Arsenal as part of the Chelsea FC Foundation Kickz partnership.
On his return to South Africa Enver became a paid member of staff leading on sports and leadership training initiatives in Cape Town while undertaking qualifications to be a trainer.
In 2012 Enver left Active Communities Network to establish his own business as a fitness trainer and a competitive career as a semi-professional boxer, but remains involved with the organisation and is a role model for young people aspiring for a career in sport and to those looking to achieve and grow in the local community.
Enver said, "I think it is fantastic that Active Communities Network have now been working over ten years in both the UK and South Africa, and the support, guidance and opportunities offered to me and others is what makes the organisation very different, and special in their approach and achievements."
the support, guidance and opportunities offered to me and others is what makes the organisation very different