UPLIFTING A COMMUNITY CAN BE AS SIMPLE AS CHASING A SOCCER BALL, WRITES DAVID KNOWLES
It’s amazing how a community can be changed through simple things. Give a group of boys some space and a soccer ball, and they discover meaning and purpose in life.
This is what 30-year-old Phila Buthelezi, a Hillcrest SAPS constable, hopes to accomplish in Embo. He grew up in the area and experienced basic, tough living first-hand – where running water and electricity were luxuries.
A policeman for the past eight years, Phila is a man of vision and purpose. He wants to give back to the community, creating a better environment for the many youngsters he sees daily – people without dreams.
“Development in Embo has been slow, but there’s progress. There is one main road which is tarred, the rest being dirt,” says Phila. “At school, the only sport I knew was soccer, playing in someone’s garden most of the time.”
Gradually, Phila was exposed to proper soccer fields and athletics tracks, where people could run and jump. It left a lasting impression on him.
“As a policeman, I have seen children running and playing in parks while I have been on duty and I often thought, why don’t we have something like this in Embo? There are four schools in the area where I live and none have any sport facilities,” he says. “No fields, nothing. People have to make their own plans to run, train or play.”
Phila wanted to make a change. He enquired at Parks and Recreation where the process is slow. “So I thought, there is nothing stopping us as a community doing something. I asked working people for small donations, just to get started,” he says. “Within two months, people living near an open piece of ground had given permission for us to use the space to play soccer.”
Not shy of following his dream, Phila approached a local civils company working in Waterfall and they generously sent a small grader to level the field for no charge. “With that help and the community chipping in, we have made a start. Yes, we could approach businesses for help and financial assistance, but that will come later,” he says. “But we have to show, as a community, that we are active and have a purpose. Dreams take work, not thoughts.”
It’s a start, but Phila knows what he wants.
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