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Shooting for the Stars: Bryan’s Story

KDB Basketball

 

On his way home from school one day, 14-year-old Samkelo Bryan Cele, learnt something that would change his life. Being tall in stature, a friend invited him to join the CAST Basketball team that trained at KwaDabeka Baptist church. Without any former knowledge of the sport, or the right kit, Bryan went to check it out.

At first, it was tough. The other boys had skills and experience that far outweighed young Bryan playing in a pair of construction boots. Growing up as the eldest son in a family of seven with a single parent, Bryan faced scrutiny for investing so much of his time into basketball, especially since soccer was the more popular sport in his community. With the added sorrow of his grandfather’s passing, he stopped playing for a year.

Despite not being a part of the team, CAST had become a “home away from home” for Bryan – a safe space away from the dangers of peer pressure where he learnt about brotherhood, and what it meant to have a personal relationship with God in daily life as the boys would pray before and after each training session.

He started playing again in grade 9, this time, with a strong determination to improve his skills. As part of CAST’s focus on youth development, our mentoring programme seeks to break the cycle of fatherlessness in the communities by connecting young people with role models. Our goal is not that mentors would solve all their mentees’ problems, but rather that mentors would empower their mentees to solve their own problems. From equipping Bryan with his very first pair of trainers to sponsoring a trip to attend a basketball camp in Serbia, Bryan was blessed to have the mentorship of Mike Cox, a member of Westville Baptist Church, who whole-heartedly invested in Bryan’s future.

As the years went by, Bryan steadily got better and better. His talent drew the attention of selectors at regional tournaments, and he was subsequently offered a scholarship to attend Durban High School. His vision broadened as he began to see the many doors that had opened for him to opportunities that someone from ‘the hood’ would not ordinarily have access to.  One such opportunity was being selected to attend the aforementioned basketball training camp in Serbia, as well as in the USA where Bryan was awarded the title of ‘Most Valuable Player’.

Bryan is now in his second year at The University of Oklahoma, USA where he was awarded a scholarship to play basketball and is academically pursuing a degree in Business Law. Once qualified, his dream is to use his entrepreneurial skills to build a support structure for those from a similar background with limited opportunities. “Basketball was my out,” he says.

“I know I’m not the only one who can do it. They need God, hope and motivation.”

Bryan is deeply grateful for the generosity of donors and the support of CAST mentors and coaches, through which, God has worked to transform Bryan’s life. His advice to those who aspire to achieve the same goal is simple: “Believe. Work. And pray.”

If you would like to help make this dream a reality for more youth in our communities, contact George on 031 266 8830 or email george@cast.org.za.

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Thandi and the Girls

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For CAST’s Sport & Youth Development Department, 2015 was all about integrating girls into the programme. In the beginning of 2015, the Lord prompted several girls in KwaDabeka looking for a safe place to gym to join CAST’s basketball training. Those girls brought their friends, and soon CAST had enough girls from the community to start a female basketball team.

The only problem was that the girls had no one to lead them. A few senior guys stepped up to the plate and filled the gap by coaching the team, but the girls longed for a female coach who they could relate to. So when Coach Thandi Gova joined CAST’s Sport & Youth Development Internship Programme this year, there was no doubt the Lord had answered the prayers of our girls!

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Although Thandi comes across as shy and calm, she has a very adventurous spirit, a sharp sense of humor, and always wants to try new things. Thandi loves sport and plays hockey, soccer, and softball.

Thandi comes with an educational background in Coaching Science. Although her background is not in basketball, she is excited to learn more and also introduce new sports for the girls in our programme.

Her motivation to do development work comes from a desire to give back to the community. Originally from the Eastern Cape, Thandi always wanted to do something for girls because there were few positive opportunities for them, and teenage pregnancy was a huge problem.

However, because of Thandi’s educational qualifications in Coaching Science, she thought she would only be able to work in the private sector. But when she found out about CAST’s Sport & Youth Development Department, Thandi was excited to finally be able to live out her passion.

As Thandi explained, “I believe girls are not given enough opportunity to explore in sports. I’m excited to be working with the girls and empowering them.”

CAST relies on our hardworking interns to accomplish much of the work in the community, and they are a huge blessing to our organisation. Please keep Thandi and the girls in your prayers as they start 2016!

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Rebecca

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During these school holidays, CAST has been blessed with an amazing volunteer from the States. Although if you chat with Rebecca you might think she is South African because of her accent!

Originally from Westville, Rebecca moved to the States when she was 6 years old and grew up in Texas.  Currently she is studying International Relations at Boston University and hopes to graduate in the upcoming year.

Her journey to CAST began with a search for an internship as one of her degree requirements.  Because Rebecca is completing her Bachelor’s degree in 3 years instead of the typical 4 years required in the States, the search for an internship was incredibly competitive with other students who were already in their fourth year of study.  Rebecca also had the added weight of deciding between a career in the NGO or corporate world.

However, through a family friend in South Africa, Rebecca heard about CAST and was able to join the team for her summer holidays to fulfill her internship requirement.  While she has been doing a bit of everything – from chopping flyers to helping out with holiday club – her favorite part of the internship has been her work with the Youth Development Programme in KwaDabeka.

As Rebecca explained, “It’s amazing to see the difference in kids who have been with CAST for 6 or 8 years.”

She describes it as the “ripple effect” – transformation starts with one person reaching out, and in the end results with a whole community being impacted.

During her first week of internship, George Mwaura, CAST’s Youth Development Manager, asked Rebecca if she could lead a Bible study for the girls basketball team. The first few weeks Rebecca spent just building relationships with the girls.  She then had the idea to have the girls write “Letters to God” where they asked God one serious question, and one funny question.  This opened up the floor for the girls to discuss important spiritual issues.

From an academic side, Rebecca has tried to figure out what the girls need to achieve their goals.  Most of the girls on the team want to attend university but need assistance in applying for bursaries.

Please keep Rebecca in prayer as she finishes her internship with CAST at the end of this month.  Also, CAST is looking for a female basketball coach to continue working with the girls team.  If this sounds like something you’d be interested in, please contact George Mwaura at george@cast.org.za for more information.

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Let’s Hear it for the Girls!

It all started with a passion to reach girls in the communities where CAST works.  Londeka Choba joined the CAST team at the beginning of this year as a Poverty Relief Intern, with a deep desire to reach girls in the community.

In the past, CAST’s Youth Development Programme has focused primarily on empowering boys in the communities where we work.  As girls began to ask for their own programmes, CAST realised the need to accommodate girls in the community.  First, Dale Nunes and Antony Mbugua organised a girls’ tennis team.  Then, girls began to show up at basketball practice in KwaDabeka, asking to train with the guys.  After several months of faithfully coming to train, the girls proved their commitment and dedication to the sport, and now CAST is looking for a female basketball coach to lead the girls.

However, sports is only a part of Youth Development.  CAST also realised there was huge need to create a forum for girls to talk about critical issues that impact them individually, their family, and the greater community.

Londeka, along with Samke Mbatha (CAST’s Social Worker in KwaDabeka) saw this need and organised a pilot project for girls attending Sthokozile High School.  The project uses material from Hope2Educate, which is a youth-led organisation based in Durban. Hope2Educate uses dialogues to engage different components of the community on social and economic development whilst addressing the challenges associated with HIV and AIDS.

Currently the girls are writing exams, but this project will start soon when the school reopens after exams.  Thirty-five girls have been interviewed and will participate in this project.  Please be in prayer for Londeka and Samke as they lead this brand new project for high school girls in KwaDabeka!

If any of these opportunities interest you: girls’ tennis, girls’ basketball, or the Hope2Educate Programme, please make sure to contact Murry at murry@cast.org.za to find out more about volunteer opportunities.

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Captain Banda

Back in 2010, Banda was skinny and tall, just looking for a place to train in KwaDabeka. He started coming to CAST’s basketball practices with his friend Tukiso and found much more than just a place to shoot hoops.

Banda (in white, far left) with the CAST team in 2010

Banda (in white, far left) with the CAST team in 2010

Since he joined in Grade 10, Banda has grown up with his CAST teammates, learning about life in community. As Banda says, “Teamwork is a crucial thing. I’ve learned you need people to guide you, to give you that extra boost.”

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Off the court, Banda also participated in boys2Men Camp, learning more about what a father actually looks like, and how to be there as a parent for your children.

By the time Matric rolled around, Banda realized he couldn’t be on the team as much as he would like if he wanted to succeed in school. Banda was determined to do whatever it took to pass. His efforts paid off when Matric results were posted; he scored 4 A’s and missed the fifth A by one percentage point.

This same work ethic carried on with Banda as he chose to pursue Maritime Studies at DUT. However financial complications stood in the way to even begin classes.

After approaching CAST for assistance, Banda was able to cover his registration fees and begin classes. Determined to find a way to pay for school in the future, he applied for bursaries.

As he battled to cover his expenses, Banda began to feel as though he wouldn’t be able to continue at DUT; he didn’t receive his first semester results because of the outstanding fees.

Then finally, Banda’s big break came. Among five of his peers, Banda was chosen to receive a bursary for the following year’s school fees. In addition, Banda will receive training and employment to help cover some of his remaining school fees from last year.

Here at CAST, we believe in empowering willing and aspiring young people like Banda, living in under-resourced communities to realize their dreams and make a difference in their community. This year Banda is not only pursuing his dreams, but also giving back to his community by tutoring high school students involved with CAST’s Programmes in KwaDabeka.

If you are interested in supporting a young person like Banda financially, or through mentoring, please contact George Mwaura at george@cast.org.za to find out more about how you can get involved.

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The Clan Barbershop Project

For many of CAST’s older participants in the Youth Development Programme, finding part-time work while also pursuing further education can be a challenge. Often times the participants come from single-parent homes where they care for their younger siblings. Over the past few months, CAST has begun looking at ways to create solutions for this problem.

An exciting possibility to address this problem is The Clan Barbershop Project. This project started through a conversation between George, CAST’s Youth Development Programme Manager and David, his friend from Burundi. David first came to Westville Baptist Church when someone invited him at the Westville BP Garage where he works. He liked WBC and started coming to church on a regular basis with his cousin.

Recently David’s work schedule at the garage has kept him from attending church on Sunday. David was sharing his work frustrations with George, when they devised The Clan Barbershop Project at CAST’s Ministry Fair. It all started with David’s experience of cutting hair in Burundi.

David has spent most of his life fleeing his own country because of war. At first, David fled to Tanzania and Rwanda, waiting for the conflict to end. When he was 19, he returned to Burundi and found most of his friends cutting hair to make ends meet. When a friend offered to teach him how to cut hair, David jumped on the opportunity and learned most of the basics in just three weeks. Over time he was able to open his own barbershop and run his own business.

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David

However, once again David was forced to leave because of conflict in his home country. This time, David fled to Mozambique, and eventually South Africa. As a refugee, David was able to make a living by cutting hair, but life was not easy so he decided to work for the BP Garage in Westville.

Now David would like to cut hair again, but this time he wants to give back to the local community through The Clan Barbershop Project.  By sharing some of his experience with CAST’s older Youth Development Programme participants, David hopes to help young people who are still in school or have just graduated. CAST’s Youth Development Programme would like to open a barbershop in KwaDabeka, near Themba’s Carwash (another successful CAST business forum participant) and KwaDabeka Baptist Church. Just as David’s friend took the time to teach him, David would like to teach other younger guys how to cut hair so that they can work part-time while still attending school.

Future location of The Clan Barbershop Project

Future location of The Clan Barbershop Project

Barbershop location near Themba's Carwash in KwaDabeka

Barbershop location near Themba’s Carwash in KwaDabeka

The Clan Barbershop Project will not only create employment for CAST’s Youth Development participants, but will also offer a valuable service to the young people in KwaDabeka who normally have to travel to Pinetown, KK, or Durban central to have their hair cut. By bringing this service closer to the youth and at a more affordable cost, CAST hopes that this project will also give back to the greater community.

Currently, The Clan Barbershop Project would like to employ at least five older guys in the Youth Development Programme who want to work part-time while going to school. During the school holidays, David will be able to train more participants.

Please pray that as we launch The Clan Barbershop Project, it will be a successful integration of CAST’s Business Development and Youth Development Programmes. Pray that the programme graduates and senior basketball team (also known as “The Clan”, which the project was named after) will benefit from this new project as they begin a new chapter in life.

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Bryan the Professor X

Bryan (on right) with George Mwaura, CAST Youth Development Manager

Bryan (on right) with George Mwaura, CAST Youth Development Manager

Samkelo, more commonly known as “Bryan”, stands out in a crowd not only because of his height but also because of his charismatic and bubbly personality. He attends Durban High School (DHS) on a basketball scholarship, but grew up in KwaDabeka with his grandparents and mother.

Bryan’s story with CAST began in 2010, when he came to play basketball with the team in KwaDabeka. At first everyone on the team gave him a hard time because he was young, tall, and did not know how to play. After coming to practice only three times, Bryan’s grandfather passed away and he did not play basketball for a year.

One day Bryan’s mother brought home a basketball and encouraged him to practise, even though she did not want him to be on the team. Bryan prayed and asked God to give him a second chance with basketball. This time when Bryan came to play with the CAST team, he ignored the older guys and focused on developing his basketball skills. Bryan drilled himself on simple things, like a lay up, for a month and pushed himself to excel.

Before his first game in Westville, Bryan showed up an hour early to practise. Everyone wondered why he was sweating before the game, but his hard work paid off when he scored the first basket. Bryan earned his place on the team after the game.

However, he was not satisfied with being mediocre. Bryan studied how to improve his shots on Youtube in addition to practising with the CAST team.

Along the way, he was blessed with a pair of basketball shoes by one of our CAST donors. These shoes gave Bryan the confidence he needed to pursue his dreams, motivating him to work harder towards his goals. Bryan still prizes his basketball shoes, though worn and falling apart, as a reminder of the kindness shown to him.

Again, Bryan’s hard work paid off when a coach from Westville saw him play and asked him to tryout for the high school team. At the time DHS wanted him to play as well, so Bryan was torn between the two schools. He ended up choosing Westville, but was denied.

In 2013 Bryan was stuck at his old school, hoping for another chance to succeed. So he worked harder because he believed something was missing. Bryan’s chance came through his CAST coach, Lungelo Dlamini, who told him about KwaZulu-Natal’s district basketball tryouts. As one of the 75 best high school basketball players in the district, Bryan was vying for one of the 15 spots on the team. Gradually through several months, Bryan made it through the cuts as one of the last 15 people. However, he learned that the coach was only going to take 12 guys on the team. Bryan prayed only to be on the team. At the final selection, the assistant coach told Bryan that he did not make the cut, only to find out he was the youngest player on the roster!

Bryan’s luck did not end there; he was given scholarship forms for DHS. His mom was not too excited, but Bryan held out faith that God would answer his prayers. Hope seemed dim again when the school lost his forms, but in December 2013, Bryan was awarded a complete scholarship to attend DHS and play basketball.

Boarding school has taught Bryan how to be independent. It has been a hard transition at times, but Bryan is now excelling in school, even going to the library to get books to read just for fun!

Now that Bryan is on holiday, he has decided to volunteer with CAST. First, he assisted at the Mariannridge Sports Clinic for the launch of the Youth Development Program in that community. In Mariannridge he worked with boys, helping them improve their basketball and soccer skills. This past week Bryan volunteered at Addington Holiday Club as a group leader for Grade 5 boys. Bryan calls it his “mission”, as his boys are rowdy. However the experience has taught Bryan how to lead the boys in fun yet structured way. His group calls themselves “Team X” because each boy is named after a different super hero. Bryan’s focus is on growing the boys as a team, especially through praying. The boys now have someone they can look to as an example through Bryan, their “Professor X”.

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Bryan “Professor X” with his super heros!

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Bryan (in red) playing basketball with his boys

Bryan’s story is one of many. Everyday young people are being impacted through CAST’s Youth Development program. CAST’s Youth Development program believes that every young person has God-given potiential that should be nurtured. This story has not only impacted Bryan, but also the community around him. Bryan is growing and giving back to the community. CAST wants to thank all the sponsors who give to CAST’s Youth Development and help make a difference in our communities.

If you are interested in CAST’s Youth Development, you can get involved by asking George Mwaura about one of the following opportunities:

  • Sponsoring a boy to attend boys2Men Camp for R350
  • Mentoring a senior player
  • Tutoring a matriculant
  • Donating basketball shoes for the senior team

Make sure to keep Samkelo Bryan in your prayers!