‘Umbumbulu,’took me about a year to say properly. Even now, when I pronounce the name of our rural programme, I must sound weird to all those who are listening. Umbumbulu is one of our two rural programmes at PPI-SA, where we host four elementary and one high school programme. The children walk miles to school every day, on top of grueling basketball practices three days a week. Most of the participants play either barefoot or in their school shoes. Fortunately, yet oddly, adidas years past donated soccer cleats to our organization. Though we do not teach nor play soccer, our high school players have played in the cleats for the past year, opting to play on the hard, bubbly surface than baring their feet to foreign materials on the basketball court.
The drive to Umbumbulu from the office is about 45 minutes, not including the pick up and drop offs of coaches who live outside 10 km’s of the schools. Last week we clocked 179 kilometres. The scenery includes plush, rolling hills, spectacular dams, and grazing cattle that happen to halt traffic as they warm themselves on the one, main road’s pavement. Our trusty Toyota braves the pot hole filled dirt roads and climbs up 75 degree hills. How the car is still working requires a miraculous explanation.
For the amount of times I’ve prayed while driving to survive the trek, never have I doubted Umbumbulu’s commitment to the PPI program and, specifically, the schedule of the day. One cannot help if a taxi (form of public transport for all SA residents) blows a tire, thus an hour late to an event. Though I’m always amazed the players willingness to walk the 8k trek to the community court. The school representatives and principals pay out of pocket to transport the players ($7 to cramp our players into the back of an open truck bed) to community games and our most recent event, our 19th City-Wide Tournament. No matter the way, the job gets done; and exceptionally well, with the entire school ready to support.
Ntobeko Manzi, ambassador of Umbumbulu and our Life Skills Manager, is beyond proud of the Umbumbulu participants:
“Umbumbulu is known as the poorest and most uneducated area within KZN [KwaZulu-Natal province]. Yet last year, when our Grade 12 Matrics (Seniors) graduated, our participants earned the highest marks possible. High five to us, then, eh?”