By Rolan Gulston
Like many girls her age, twelve-year-old Nneka Useni from Addington Primary School loves spending time with her friends, reading, learning new recipes, taking selfies, and playing her favourite sport – netball, especially with her teammates on the CAST netball team. Over the years, CAST has developed a strong partnership with the school, facilitating early literacy programmes for the foundation-level, and sport and youth development programmes for the pre-teen age group.
Earlier this year, Nneka was one of 60 girls selected to attend the CAST Girls’ Camp, a 3-day retreat for the young ladies to learn about what it means to be resilient; mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. “I learnt so much in just one weekend and felt so spoilt, I was smiling the whole time,” Nneka reminisces. She especially enjoyed the team-building exercises, which challenged the girls in their ability to problem-solve and find solutions together.
The camp, she feels, has greatly impacted her life in helping her to develop a stronger relationship with God.
“Before, I always felt like the whole world was coming for me. I didn’t trust people, but now I know that people care about me and that the bad things will make me stronger.”
Nneka attends the Christ Embassy Church at China Mall in the Durban CBD, and has also joined the teen youth group, which gives her the space to talk about evangelism, freely express her views, and pray for others, which she found difficult to do before.
Growing up as the only girl at home since her mother’s passing in 2010, Nneka finds it difficult to connect with her older brother attending high school, and her father, who seldom gets to spend quality time with them because of work. The family are currently under tremendous financial strain, living on a social grant from SASSA, but unable to afford electricity for the past 3 months.
Despite this, Nneka has learnt to face these challenges with a positive attitude, displaying maturity and confidence far beyond her years. Having been a learner at the school since Grade One, Nneka has become a leader in her own rite, taking on the duties of library and drama monitor, as well as MC’ing the school’s recent Heritage Day celebration concert.
Nneka’s dream is to become an entrepreneur in the fashion industry. She will be attending high school at Durban Girls’ Secondary from next year, and intends on keeping up her good academic, and behavioural record. Fortunately, she has had the encouragement of her teachers to speak up and work hard toward her goals. She has also greatly appreciated the support from Thandi, CAST’s Girls’ Sport Co-ordinator, in her approach to coaching. “Thandi’s fair, she takes the time to listen to us. It’s easy to open up to her,” she says. This has also helped Nneka to form a strong bond with her teammates, and learn the value of teamwork.
Nneka’s journey through her childhood years at Addington Primary School has been greatly enriched by the time and resources provided by CAST through the generosity of our sponsors and volunteers. If you would like to get involved in shaping young lives through the Girls’ Sport and Youth Development programmes run by CAST, contact Thandi on 031 266 8830 or firstname.lastname@example.org