Life Zone – You are the change

Thursday the 27th of May 2010 – 19.23h

Today marks my third week in South Africa. The honeymoon period is well and truly over. As the days and weeks have gone by the work here has been getting tougher. I have already experienced so much it feels like I have been here for three months. At the same time it feels like yesterday I was still at our Barcelona office getting through the week looking forward to Friday night pizza and playing for Flahertys on Saturday. A strange feeling.

Over the past three weeks I have gotten to know my fellow house mates better and I have also been trying to get more involved with Life Zone, the organisation that have set up the programme I am working on. Life Zone have set up a programme which is based primarily on community development. We are currently working with 12 different schools in a suburb of Cape Town called Kensington. There are about 5 of us, all football coaches, that visit these 12 schools on a weekly basis to coach the children football. Every Wednesday we set up pitches on a field where these schools compete against each other in a league Life Zone have set up.

From what I have seen so far there are lots of football clubs here that take their youth teams very seriously. There are a lot of talented young football players here and I am sure the clubs are trying to nurture them so that they can end up playing at the bigger clubs. Obviously not all the children can make it into one of these clubs so those children that do not have the necessary skills to play football at club level do not have the opportunity to play “league” football. Life Zone offers these children this opportunity. As well as setting up the league, Life Zone also provide food for the children involved in the programme to ensure they have enough nutrition to play football and compete with one another.

This past week has been the hardest week with the children since I have been here. I am starting to remember the faces of the children I am coaching and even some of their names (a lot of the boys names are African and impossible to remember). As well as building a strong bond with these children, they are getting to know me better and more confident around me, meaning they are listening less and misbehaving more as the feeling of meeting a new foreign person is wearing out.

The children I am coaching are between 6 and 9 years old. I get very frustrated at times when I explain a drilling exercise trying to get the children to practice their control, passing and communication between one another (something they lack when playing in their matches) and I find a lot of the boys not listening and fighting between each other. I know they are still young and it is normal at their age to misbehave but being the perfectionist I am, I cannot but feel frustrated.

From what I have been told, in many of the schools where we coach each class has about 50-60 children per lesson, double the amount a classroom would have in Spain or England. This could explain why the children find it so hard to concentrate, listen and carry out instructions. They probably get very little attention in their classrooms and thus have to find ways to keep themselves entertained, which normally consists of arguing and fighting with one another instead of doing what they are told.

It is no surprise that these children finish compulsory school (if they manage to finish) without having developed the necessary skills to find a job as well as not being properly discipled and therefore needing to find any way they can to survive in the “real world”. It doesn’t surprise me at all to find South Africa in the situation it is with this very little background information.

Many parents around the world treat school as somewhere to occupy children’s time whilst they are at work. Going to school is much more than just this and it is essential parents get as involved as possible and give their children the necessary attention as well as ensuring they are properly disciplined if they care about the future of their children.

The more time I spend here and speak to other volunteers and people from South Africa, the more I am realising how hard a task it will be to eradicate poverty in Africa one day, and as a consequence the level of crime out here.

On a personal note, this week I have started to do some extra hours coaching football in one of the football clubs here and as I am getting to know the people at Life Zone better I am also trying to get more involved in the Life Zone programme. Over the next few weeks I am hoping to help them improve their website and I should also be able to help them with how they promote their organisation to get more volunteers and further investment.

In these past three weeks I have also managed to fit in some of the touristy things out here, most notably climbing up Table Mountain, which gives you an amazing view of all of Cape Town and at the same time places you above the clouds. I have tried to upload a picture but wordpress won’t let me, will try annd get some pictures up next time. On Sunday I will be going shark diving in a cage, let’s hope I get back in one piece. 🙂



Filed under Africa

29 responses to “Life Zone – You are the change

  1. Patience, sugar, patience! They are children! 🙂 They are quite little, also, and for what you explain, you just have to give them care, mimos, make them laugh and make them spend a lovely and enjoyable time playing football.

    I like to see you’re working on your objectives… helping the organization says a lot! I can send you books for children (in English) if you want.

    It’s sooo coool you are shark diving! don’t get eaten, though!

    Missing you loads. I’d like to call you too, if you’re okay with that. If not, don’t worry, wordpress sends me an email everytime you update the blog.

  2. anais

    shark diving??!!! you lucky lil shit!!!! looool
    yeh wana see some pics!!!! xxxx

  3. Pingback: Which Set of baby boys names go best with the baby girls names? | dress up bolg

  4. Ainhoa

    hola daniel ! que bueno poder leerte es muy interesante todo lo que cuentas,me alegra saber que estas bien.veo que todo marcha mas o menos como esperabas asi que me alegro por ti.estare muy atenta al blog!te mando un abrazo y un beso grande.cuidate mucho y mas con los tiburones!!!!

  5. Ronnie

    Hello sabih, I can see that all is going according to plan.Kids are kids and this experience you are going through will be so precious for the future.Keep watering those seeds!! I am very proud of you son and feel very lucky God has given me the family I have.Just don’t go too close to them sharks and enjoy the experience.Guidate,Papa xx

  6. marichu

    Hey my lovely!!!
    I see things are going according to plan. Yesterday you were on my mind as it was D Day that is sharks day!!! well Im sure you not only survived (as no news good news…. ) but that you also had an amazing time. At the moment I am in an internet cafe but its so run down you would think you are in africa not alicante.
    I had a laugh while reading your write up because honey you dont seem to realise that they are very very young little children. You were an extremely obedient child but not all children are like that…..
    Patience, patience, more patience and always patience and you will collect the fruits of your work.
    I miss you a lot sweetie, and when I look at the ocean I sit and contemplate the open sea and know that you are far, far away and that a whole world is between us but I am happy for you because you are at the place you chose to be….
    I will try to write to you again soon my shiny star.
    I see you have a sea of followers that read you and comment on it. Its great!!!
    well look after yourself my sweet
    love you zillionsxxxxxxxxx mama

  7. dani, kids are kids, everywhere in the world… so be very patient, but also very strict when it is needed. and think that it will be impossible to have the attention of everybody… if you can make a difference on a bunch of them, it’s already a GREAT achievement.

  8. Cristina Mataix


    He ido leyendo algunos de tus posts, pero me queda un montón aún para ponerme al día de todo. Me alegro de que las cosas vayan bien!

    Tus pequeñas frustraciones son normales, en un país así hay demasiado por hacer, pero lo poco que puedas aportar ya será suficiente para ellos. Ánimo con esos pequeños rebeldes 😉

    A ver si consigues subir alguna de esas fotos que prometes. Tanto que presumías de cámara nueva, y nos tienes sin ninguna imagen que ilustre tus posts. Si con WordPress no te aclaras, siempre te quedará Flickr 🙂

    Cuídate mucho! Besos!

  9. How South Africans feel about the World Cup
    What do you think? Do you agree? 🙂

    Write sooon!

  10. Peter Barter

    Hey mate,

    Just to say that all the Flahertys lads are all soo proud of you and I will make sure we all raise a glass to all your efforts. The kids will eventually come round when you show them how much fun they can have playing football properly. I was just talking yesterday to my students saying that one day I would love to go in a shark cage. Sooo jealous, hang in there chap and enjoy.

    Cesc is on his way I´m afraid!

  11. Thanks for all your comments. I don’t have much time today so I will try to be back tomorrow to reply to all your comments.

    As you can see, I survived the shark dive although suffered immensely in the process. Not of having a shark a few metres from my face but from how cold it was in the ocean and of sea sickness. The experience was truly remarkable and I have got some really cool pictures too!!

    Regarding the coaching, I have done quite a lot of hours this week and had a brilliant week. I have started coaching in a club and I am really enjoying working with the children there. Will try and get back to you all tomorrow if i can.

    You are all on my mind and being missed dearly.

  12. Having read through all your comments and the post again I think I over-exaggerated a little my frustration. The word you have all been using is patience and you are all very right. Patience is a virtue. About 3 or 4 years ago I considered myself a very patient person but over the last few years I lost that side in me for reasons I cannot put my finger on. Over these last four weeks I am starting to go back to the old patient me. To work successfully with children, no matter where they are from, patience and communication is key. I try to talk to the children as much as possible, to make them understand why I tell them to do what they have to do, repeat myself as many times as is necessary and am also very strict with the children when needed. These children have to be brought up the right way and they must learn what is right and wrong now they are young. This past week I have done a lot of coaching and it has been a truly enjoyable week, I am really thriving on working with these children and it makes me so happy to see how committed most of them are.

    Hi Mary, I am trying to make the football as enjoyable as possible. I have some nice videos of me coaching with the children, will try to get them on YouTube. If I don’t get time to do it I will show you them when I get back. It is also important that apart from having fun they are learning the values of life through playing football like for example respecting one another. At times it is not just fun and games, it is important that they are disciplined the right way if they are misbehaving. I am very happy to hear your interviews are going well and you are working so hard. I am sure there is something great for you just round the corner, keep your chin up. Miss you.

    Hello Anais, I am hoping that next week I will be able to get some pictures up somehow. Regarding shark diving, was a great experience but wouldn’t do it again!!! And not sure whether you would like it either Ans. I got really seasick and the water was FREEZING! Missing you.

    Hola Ainhoa, gracias por el comentario. Me alegro que te gusta el blog y que lo estas entendiendo todo!! Como puedes ver todo va genial por aquí, estoy disfrutando como un niño pequeño y aprendiendo un montón! Espero que todo va bien por Guardo y estas disfrutando ahora que esta llegando el verano. Cuidate mucho. Un beso

    Hi Pa, I am just as proud to have the father I have!! 🙂 Depending on the things I see out here and the stories people tell me my emotions can go from hitting the sky one moment to being rock bottom the next. I am so happy to be going through this experience and enjoying it thoroughly. I got very close to the sharks but I am still here. There was one incident with a shark that was heading straight at our cage, he was looking into my eyes and so I stared back at him, just as he came to the cage he winked at me. ha ha Missing you lots me old man!

    Be careful with your comments mother, you bring a tear to my eye every time I read what you write on here. You are one in a trizillion. You too are being dearly missed and always in my thoughts. I hope you are enjoying your time in Alicante, give Nana and Tia a big kiss from me and tell them not to worry at all, I am doing great out here. Love you.

    Hi Pere, you are very right and I try to be as strict as possible when it is needed. I am really enjoying working with children as I have never really done it in the past. I am managing to build a really strong bond with a lot of them and it is so rewarding to see them look up to me and trust me the way they do. By the way, I have seen more Arsenal shirts here than Barcelona shirts, if that counts for anything 😉

    Hola Rubia, gracias por el comentario y me alegro verte por aquí! La semana que viene intentare crear una cuenta en Flickr para ver si puedo publicar algunas fotos. Tengo un montón de fotos, y ademas algún video chulo también. Por tu parte, menos estrés y mas tiempo disfrutando del verano de Barcelona. Un beso.

    Hi Pete, thanks for your comment, very much apreciated. I hope you have had a good end of season with Flaherty’s and you are enjoying the beginning of the summer in Barcelona. Look forward to seeing you when I am back in Barcelona. Give my regards to all the Flaherty boys. Take care.

  13. Right, just bought 4 books of southafrican authors. Haha. One of them, Coetzee, has been in my ‘to read’ list for over a year.

  14. Martin Morand

    Hi Dani,

    congrats to your outstanding job you doing there in South Africa! I’m sure your efforts are making are great difference for the kids and everybody else involved!

    Footballwise, I’m sure you putting into practice the gold stuff you have learned from our training sessions at Flaherty’s…

    Anyway, I wanted to let you know that I’ll be in South Africa for the rather selfish reason of watching some world cup matches. I’m arriving in Johannesburg on July 1st hopefully getting some tickets for the quarter finals there. After that the idea is to travel down south to Cape Town by train, where it would great to catch up with you and your folks, if possible, that is. Are there still tickets available for the knock out stages?
    I’m flying back to Barcelona (from Cape Town) right after the final. What do you reckon?

    Let me know if your or your kids need anything from Barcelona or how I somehow could contribute.

    Bye for now!

  15. marichu

    HELLO…… I m back honey !!
    I survived Nana and tia hahaha…… and had a great time with auntie Ruth, Julie and the kids.
    We are all avidly awaiting those pictures….particurlarly the ones with the sharks…
    I spoke to Pierre on fb and he asked me for your blog so he can get in touch, he is going to Capetown next month and would love to meet you.
    well my darling take care of yourself and I leave you for now with all my love and final thoughts:

  16. Hi Martin, that is great to hear, I would love to see you out here. Regarding tickets for games in Cape Town, from what i have been told all the games in Cape Town are sold out but you might be able to get something from outside the stadium before the game, although it won’t be cheap. Let me know the date you are thinking of coming to Cape Town so that I can make sure I can arrange to see you. It’s great to hear from you mate! Hope the end of season with Flaherty’s went well.

    Mum, as you can see from my last post, next week I will be in Durban, where Pierre lives. Could you ask him for his number and send it to me via the blog so that I can contact him to see if I can get to see him next week. Glad you enjoyed your time in Alicante. Love you lots.

  17. Mike


    Brilliant to read your thoughts and activities. I have to say that this is openly loving set of comments I think I’ve ever seen on a blog :-). Well, here’s some more – everyone is missing you at Elisa Interactive, both on a personal level (it’s kind of strange not having La Piedra in the office), and on a professional one (poor Rafa is missing your organisational skills for one). Whilst it’s great to hear about the great work you’re doing in SA, we’re also looking forward to welcoming you back.

    Keep up the great work and keep smiling at those kids. Your comment about a balance of discipline totally resonates with me as a father. My kids are pretty “difficult” and need additional guidance on what is acceptable and right and wrong sometimes. I’ve always found the difficult thing, the thing that takes time, is the explanation of why. It’s so easy to say “no, don’t do that!” and not “don’t do that because…”.

    Keep up the blog….everyone’s hooked!


  18. Hi Mike, great to see you on here and thanks for the comment. I am missing everyone involved at Elisa Interactive very much so. Won’t be long till La Piedra will be back in the office and back to his old ways. As you can imagine I have had lots of time to think whilst out here and it hasn’t stopped me thinking of ideas of taking Elisa forward, so I will be back and with my batteries fully charged. Your kids are not difficult at all, you just have to make sure you and Isa find a good balance between work and giving attention to Max and Elisa, which is something they will really benefit from in the future. I am looking forward to being informed when big bells have been rung in the office. 🙂

  19. Philip Shorten

    It’s great to keep reading the posts, as always. You’re missed massively over here but we all know that you’re doing a fantastic job over there and it sounds like you’re thoroughly enjoying it.
    Take care my friend and speak to you soon.

  20. Hey Phil,
    You being missed dearly too mate. My time is running out here, just got 4 weeks left now. Will give you a call when I am back in the UK for a good catch up. Hope you are doing well and not working too hard. Enjoy the summer. Speak soon big man.

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