These Student-Athletes Can Use a Hand!

Those of you who know me may recall that in Windhoek, I was quite active in teaching Namibian teens to swim, and training them to compete in multisport competitions involving swimming, running, and/or cycling.  The story of one of these athletes is captured in this blog post.  A group of 4 athletes (and a chaperone) whom I taught and coached are now in a position to compete in Africa’s triathlon championships on April 12.  However, they won’t get there without a little help.  They’ve got an Indiegogo campaign that explains more – and only a few days left to meet their goal:

Why do they need help?  Here’s the background.  First, a little history:

Namibia has the world’s highest income disparity.  This means there are a very few “haves” and a whole lot of “have nots.”  The difference between the “haves” and the “have nots” is largely along racial lines, dating back to years of apartheid policy imposed by South Africa prior to 1990.  During apartheid, the government felt that it was pointless to give black (then-) South Africans any decent education, as they would not be permitted employment in any professions requiring it anyhow.  As a result, today in addition to an income disparity, there is also a skills disparity and an education disparity.  The government of Namibia has spent over 20% of the country’s budget on education since independence in 1990, but it takes time when most of your teachers are also lacking in education.  Recovering from years of enforced non-education is taking years, if not generations.

Enter programs like “Physically Active Youth.”  In the former township area of Windhoek called Katutura, the passing rate for 10th grade – commonly seen as the gateway to any sort of higher education – is generally about 35%.  Parents often are unable to help educate their own children, partly due to lacking formal education themselves, but also because of the need to work to put food on the table (unemployment estimates range between 35 and 50%).  So a couple of visionary youths established the “Physically Active Youth” program, which offers not only a place to study and receive assistance with schoolwork, but also life skills training, all supported by a sports framework which helps kids develop discipline, pride, and translates directly into improved academics.  As a result, a decade later, a large majority of PAY participants passes 10th grade exams, and many are going on to complete 12th grade and go on to university.

PAY has a cycling team that consistently ranks nationwide.  In addition to acting as role models for their peers, the cyclists help publicize the PAY program overall.  And many of the youths in the program are excellent runners as well.  But one skill that has been lacking in the black Namibian community in general is swimming.  So we started a swimming program in 2012.  And PAY kids started competing in local swimming competitions.  And triathlons.  And soon they started winning.  If you’re skeptical, refer back to this blog post. Seriously, have a look.

And they are giving back to the program by teaching their peers to swim.  And it all feeds back into improved academics and increased opportunities – not only for them, but for youths throughout the program and the community.

So that’s why they need your help.  Every little bit makes a difference.  And whether you can or can’t help, please share this post with your friends, and/or send them this link about the fundraiser: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/pay-team-heads-to-zimbabwe-for-the-african-champs

Thanks from the teens at PAY!

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