PeacePlayers – South Africa had some special international guests over the weekend, as 35 students from the University of Texas at Austin dropped by to check out the programme. The students, who attend UT’s McCombs School of Business, are in South Africa as part of the school’s Global Connections programme aimed at exposing students to international business. The annual trip usually visits places like the Johannesburg Stock Exchange and various multinational corporations, but this year the trip was coordinated by former PPI-SA International Fellow Tim Roche, and he had some new ideas. Roche, who is working towards an MBA at McCombs, decided to structure the trip around non-profit organizations rather than large corporations. The group visited three non-profit organizations in Cape Town and three in Durban, including PPI-SA.
“I wanted my classmates to see the real South Africa and also get something more out of the trip than just visiting companies that we would be able to see in the States,” Roche explains, “so I designed a non-profit curriculum and PeacePlayers was really the linchpin of the whole curriculum, as relationships and connections through PPI helped us set up the rest of our visits on the trip.”
Their visit included taking a bus out to Umlazi to see our primary school programme in action. They witnessed a boys game and a girls game between Sekelani Primary and Mthethweni Primary, then jumped into the action for a friendly PPI vs. Texas game.
McCombs student Kemar Burrowes has had lots of great basketball experiences in his life, including playing D-1 college basketball at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, but the visit to Umlazi ranks up there among the best.
“I didn’t know what to expect walking in, I didn’t know the kids were going to be so organized and well-mannered,” Burrowes says, “What really warmed my heart was how they responded to the coaches. They really listened to the coaches and took heed to what the coaches were saying, and they had a good time. We really enjoyed watching them play and they really enjoyed watching us play. We were high-fiving and having a good time. Afterwards, the kids were excited, they came up and gave us hugs. We were shaking hands. It was fun. We had a blast.”
Burrowes was so impressed by the kids that he made an impromptu decision to give away his basketball shoes to one of the participants who had been playing barefoot. Burrowes wanted to reward Siyanda’s hustle, effort, and attitude with a pair of shoes to play in.
“There was one kid who was working his butt off the entire time and he was trying to gather people and keep his teammates motivated and I just kept my eye on him every time he was in the game,” Burrowes explains, “So when the game was over with I looked at my shoes and realized that I have several pairs back home in the States and he doesn’t have any, and he can use these shoes way more than I can. I wanted to make sure that at least he has a pair of shoes that he can wear when he comes to play basketball every day.”
For Burrowes, like most of his classmates, it is his first visit to Africa. For Roche, it is his first trip back since leaving PPI-SA in 2010. More than anything, Roche says he enjoys being able to come back and hang out with some of the people he became so close with during his time here. After the fun and games in Umlazi, he organized a beach braai so that he and his classmates could intermingle with current and former PPI staff and coaches, share stories, and learn more about each other.
All-in-all, Roche has relished the opportunity to share South Africa and PPI-SA with his American classmates.
“It’s been an amazing trip and it’s opened their eyes to what the majority of people in South Africa live like and the problems they face,” says Roche. “I also think it’s made many of them want to add some aspect of non-profit and charity work to their life going forward.”
The day was a memorable one for all involved, from American business students looking to learn more about international non-profits, to PPI staff welcoming back an old friend and making new ones, to a child at Mthethweni Primary who got to take home his very first pair of basketball shoes. Days like this are the ones that stay firmly etched in our minds.