Nasiphi with kids at a Carrington Primary School practice earlier this year.
In this week’s blog we catch up with former PPI-SA Coach and Area Coordinator, and new PPI-NI Fellow Nasiphi “Nas” Khafu before she departs on her new journey.
How did you first hear about Peace Players International – South Africa?
In 2006, I was attending Futura High School and met a friend who was playing basketball with PeacePlayers International (At the time known as Playing for Peace). I remember going to practice for the first time, never having played basketball before. I was 18 and here were these 13 year old girls who were way better than I was. But the coach was so great, and I loved the competitiveness of it, so I kept coming back. Unfortunately, I had to quit a few months later because my mom wanted me home to help out. Little did I know that, that wouldn’t be my last interaction with PPI.
My mom passed away in 2006, and my life changed. I had two little siblings to take care of, on top of school and work. But I had no other option than to keep moving forward. I finished my Matric and went on to study Sports Management at Durban Institute of Technology (DUT).
I was studying full time, playing basketball and waitressing, and still just getting by. I went days with little or no food. A few of my friends who I met through playing basketball at DUT recommended that I check out working for PPI. Here I was, a 19 year old having only played basketball for a few months, interviewing for a basketball coaching position. Even so, I knew two things: I loved working with kids, and I had the passion to learn.
That passion and willingness showed through in my interviews and shortly after I was hired as a PPI coach.
Tell us about your experience working with PPI.
Nas coaching at a Primary School extravaganza in 2008
I started in 2008 and my first post was as coach at Durban Primary School. I was so nervous, but continued to observe and learn from the PPI staff and other coaches. The next year I was named PPI-SA coach of the year, and got to go to Johannesburg. I had just joined PPI a year ago, had just begun playing basketball not long before that and here I was, the first person to fly in my family, and the first to stay in a hotel, it was amazing.
In the second half of 2009, I became the Durban area coordinator and oversaw 7 primary schools throughout the city. Here I was managing people I had looked up to since my time at PPI began, and All I could think is how am I going to do this? I got through it by not acting as a boss, but instead as a friend. It was my mission to help them find their passion and pursue their dreams.
The area coordinator position was also the first time I really noticed the diversity in wealth across the different schools and communities. One school had two swimming pools while at the other kids didn’t have lunch to eat. It showed me that despite their circumstances all these kids needed one thing; someone who cared about them and gave them time.
A few years later, in 2012, through PPI I was selected to travel to the United States with the U.S. Department of State’s SportsUnited exchange program. That was a dream come true! I was one of twelve coaches across South Africa selected for the trip, and one of just two girls.
The traveling and opportunities didn’t stop there. In July of 2009, I was part of the inaugural Laureus YES (Youth Empowerment Through Sports) Program, and was eventually asked to go to Barcelona to speak on behalf of the program.
What is it about basketball or sports that makes it such a great tool for working with youth?
Nelson Mandela once said: “Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair.”
I couldn’t agree more. Sport fed me, it clothed me, it gave me accommodation, it gave me friends, it gave me family, it was my escape, I felt complete with a basketball in my hands.
I just want to show kids that nothing is impossible. I’m really passionate about people, and helping them find themselves… who they are, what they are and what’s going to make them happy. I love investing in people and helping people find themselves, because I look back and see all the people who helped me along the way.
I’m so excited to use sport as a way to do this.
What was it that attracted you to the PPI-Fellowship Position?
Nas with her fellow coaches from the SportsUnited Coaching Exchange in Washington D.C.
When I first joined PPI, I remember [PPI Staffer] Ryan Douwie was a fellow, and I always wondered why no one else form SA did it. I had been around long enough that I had seen fellows coming into SA for two years and how they came in as one person and left completely transformed. I’ve always been a dreamer, and so I wanted to be that next South African to become a fellow.
Last year an opportunity came up to go to Cyprus, but I was scared and didn’t end up applying. So when I got that second opportunity with Northern Ireland I wasn’t going to let it slip through
What are you most excited about with the new position?
I’m looking forward to learning about the Irish culture and bringing the loving African culture of Ubuntu, to Northern Ireland. I’ve never been a minority in my life. Coming from South Africa’s history of Apartheid, I think it will be very interesting to be a minority and get that perspective. I can’t wait to bring my experience from the program I’ve fallen in love with down here in SA to Northern Ireland.