A three hour drive from Durban, South Africa, down the Eastern Cape is a small town called Mount Ayliff. On the outskirts of the town, in the village of Cabazana, Nasiphi Khafu was raised by her grandparents Ntsikelelo and Nontsikelelo. At the age of 16, Nasiphi moved to Durban KwaZulu Natal to live with her mother, Zingisa, who was working away from home. Just two years later her mother passed away, leaving Nasiphi to watch over her 15-year-old brother, Yongama, and her 5-year-old sister, Nqobile. “Losing the important people in my life at an early age forced me to be independent. This was the beginning of real life for us, we were scattered around between different relatives who took care of us.”
That same year, one of Nasiphi’s friends in high school told her about a program he had joined called PeacePlayers International – South Africa. “I remember my first practice – I was wearing my school uniform, playing bare foot. I could not believe how heavy the orange ball was compared to netball or volleyball that I had been playing my whole life. My coach was Thabang Khumalo who was really patient and kind with me as I was struggling to learn the simplest things like dribbling.”
Despite being new to the sport, Nasiphi’s coaches recognized her natural leadership skills, and hired her as a coach at Durban Primary School. At the end of her first year, Nasiphi was named the coach of the year and she was one of nine PPI-SA coaches invited to attend the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation Retreat in Johannesburg. “I will never forget that experience as it was my first time on a airplane and staying in a hotel.”
“I believe sharing my experiences of being discriminated against in South Africa is helping young people in Northern Ireland better understand the importance of seeing each other as people.”
In her third year with PPI-SA, Nasiphi was offered an 18-month International Fellowship in Belfast with PPI – Northern Ireland. A post traditionally offered to American post-collegiate scholar athletes, Nasiphi was the first former participant to become a Fellow. As a Fellow, Nasiphi is working hand in hand with a group of 25 local coaches to run year-round peace building through sport programs for over 2,000 Catholic and Protestant children in eight of the ten most disadvantaged communities in Northern Ireland. “I believe sharing my experiences of being discriminated against in South Africa is helping young people in Northern Ireland better understand the importance of seeing each other as people. And at the same time I am learning about their conflict. When I first arrived I remember asking myself, how do they even know if you are Catholic or Protestant?”
Since beginning last June, Nasiphi has been helping facilitate PPI-NI’s Twinning Program, which brings entire classes of children ages 8 to 11 from neighboring Controlled (predominantly Protestant) and Maintained (predominantly Catholic) schools together for joint basketball and community relations sessions where youth play together on mixed teams instead of against each other. Through this process, young people are learning to be tolerant of other people’s background and views regardless of whether or not they were different to their own.
Nasiphi has found the experience to be incredibly beneficial, and after completing her Fellowship next year, she plans to return to South Africa and get a graduate degree in business and hopes to one day return to PPI-SA and use her new skills and knowledge to grow the program that helped launch her career. “I call PeacePlayers family, they gave me basketball, they give me life, hope and courage to always strive to be better for myself and the other youth that I inspire every day.”