Theresa Verzosa first volunteered for PPI-South Africa in 2008, having known Racquel Thompson, who was serving as a PPI-SA Fellow at the time, from high school. Through her work with the organization, Theresa formed extremely close relationships with players, coaches, and families of all PPI-SA stakeholders.
Theresa with former PPI-SA Fellow Raquel Thompson.
Fortunately, Theresa has made it back to PPI-SA headquarters two more times, most recently spending several days with us this past week. Here’s what she has to say.
PPI – SA: Describe your first time with PeacePlayers International-South Africa?
Theresa Verzosa: Just incredible. I have kept in touch with almost everyone I met while here and am lucky to be seeing some of them again now as I return to Umbumbulu and Molweni, two of the several townships I visited frequently. My volunteer time at PPI made me realize I want to do work along the lines of PeacePlayers’ mission, which is essentially helping people in any way I can, while working hands-on in the field.
PPI-SA: How was it been being back here?
Mhligo, a former PPI-SA coach, rapping at a City-Wide basketball tournament. Theresa is the closest to Mhligo in the bottom-left.
TV: Incredible to see how people have grown, in basketball and just in life. Now the players and coaches are in University and doing really well. One of the girls I am close with still has grown immensely. Watching her play, to see her automatically place the ball in triple threat – just that – was amazing to see. She represents the best of PPI, a player and person developed through PPI-SA’s PSP and LDP programs and now, while studying, as a coach for PSP. She’s extremely hard-working and has grown tremendously.
She’s obsessed with basketball. She attends University in the City in the morning, and then hustles back to play a three-hour game of pick-up back in her township. You guys…were drenched. [Author's Note: We had played a long, long game in one of the few indoor courts in South Africa. Nice to be indoors, though the gym is like a microwave, getting hotter with every second that ticks by.]
PPI-SA: What were you most looking forward to on your third trip back?
TV: Going to Umbumbulu and seeing all the LDP players, to see where they’ve been and listen to what they’ve accomplished. And visiting the families of those players who would graciously provide home-cooked meals for us every time we came to their place. I miss the families. And definitely magwinas. I averaged one a day. [Author's Note: Magwinas are township staples. Picture a massive ball of dough that is freshly fried, dripping in grease. You can add a Kraft slice of cheese and baloney-type slice of meat, though Theresa eats them the best way…plain. And all for R1, about $.70.]
Sad to hear the stories about family members who have passed, and how the role of children in their family has changed (more responsibility in all facets of life). And yet, they’re still able to take away so much and make the experience positive. Zulus have so much to struggle against, and yet you’ll find many within PPI who take what they’re given and just run with it. PPI helps these kids grow to responsible adults, and I’m lucky to have seen this first-hand at different times of each PPI-SA life I see, each time I head back here.
A video Theresa made chronicling the 2008 City-Wide.
PPI-SA: When are you going to be back again?
TV: I’m going to work on my East African adventures, and then I will be back after that.
PPI-SA: Well hurry back!