Collaborations that inspire change: Paving the way with training4changeS
Our youth is in desperate need of sustainable intervention and development. It is easily observed that we have a sizeable base in Stellenbosch for serving the underserved. In the last 10-15 years we have seen more registered for-good organisations hoping to create safe spaces for our youth to be cared for, empowered and trained. This community is home to a diverse collaborative effort – driven by individuals who truly have a passion for inspiring and initiating change.
Many community spaces are still uncultivated for our young people. The effort in progress invites individuals, teams and organisations to take hands in facilitating change. We need to become involved in the surrounding effort as a step towards holistic and sustainable development for our Stellenbosch community.
The transformation of an individual or community typically begins with a vision or sense to create a space where ambition, restoration, and skills development can thrive. In the heart of, co-founder of training4changeS (t4c) alongside his wife Kendra, Daniel Thomae, was a stirring to afford local youth an opportunity to learn and play soccer.
The passion for the game and the community really began several years before, accompanying his parents in their development work around east Africa. Daniel grew up playing soccer, and following a bursary opportunity to study back home in America he also moved around the word playing amateur soccer in Europe and connecting with different people from different cultures, “I always loved the game because of that. And always had the desire to use the game to create opportunities for kids like the ones that I grew up with, that were far better than me at playing the game, but never had such opportunities to study and travel” he says.
t4c unofficially took form during a period of about 3 years, from the end of 2010 to 2013. Collaboration, community research and development and identifying gaps to address was a core part of laying the foundation of the futsal initiative launched in 2014. t4c is a non-profit organisation aimed at holistic community transformation through engaging athletes and equipping coaches. Working largely in Kayamandi, Jonkershoek, Idas Valley, and Cloetesville, t4c exists to equip young leaders through the participation of sport and gaining social, employable and marketable skills.
Lorenzo Claassen, coach and a t4c parent, says that he is very impressed with, co-founder and international director, Daniel Thomae’s passion, care and the space the organisation has created, “The training4changeS programme has an incredible impact on the community, creating a safe space for young people to be mentored, gain skills and have bursary opportunities” he says. Lorenzo has been actively involved with t4c since 2014, attending parent workshops and coaching training sessions. He expressed that in partnership with The Reggie Meyer Education Fund (RMEF), t4c’s Futsal Academy boys have the opportunity to receive bursaries to enrol at Calling Academy, a private school in Stellenbosch, and there are currently 5 RMEF bursars enrolled from t4c.
Many of the communities needing support are high crime and gang areas. The youth are often victims of cycles of poverty because of the areas they grow up in. What the existence of such an organisation means is that there is a course of intervention for many young lives. t4c coaches are equipped to facilitate growth and hope by becoming positive role models. What differentiates t4c is that the team focuses on coaching life and sport.“In the sport space you either have a high performance focus or a social development focus where sport is just a vehicle. We wanted to do both and – we wanted to deliver high level soccer coaching and training of coaches but also fully embed social purpose and life skills and everything at the heart of what we’re doing,” says Daniel.
Stellenbosch youth has access to diverse skills development spaces for youth and many also offer sport as a means to social development and community transformation. Since 2010, Kuyasa Horizon Empowerment has been a valuable and long-term collaborating partner for training4changeS. Their community centre based in Kayamandi has served as a strategic location for engaging with youth and running training4changeS programmes. The collaboration involved training coaches and working with their youth, and a group of young leaders coached with the training4changeS team after completing high school.
Kuyasa, also previously a SCAN member, has the infrastructure to support programmes that don’t have access to their own centre or space and have generously made this available to training4changeS. In 2012, together with Kuyasa, training4changeS co-founded Kuyasa Futsal League to create a space for social inclusion and reconciliation for the youth in Kayamandi. The natural overlap of vision and passion can facilitate organic collaboration where resources and skills training can be shared and integrated across organisations or sectors.
While being deeply embedded in the different communities within Stellenbosch, training4changeS also has a seat at the global table in the world of sport for development. “We’re trying to have a local focus while being fully engaged in global conversation. And facilitate shared learning so that we can bring best practices and share them at the grassroots level with other organisations that might not be in those places” says Daniel. The nature of SCAN’s working groups is to create a space where leaders can gather, engage in conversations about building a sustainability community and where knowledge sharing and problem solving becomes a joint effort.
training4changeS has been a SCAN member for the last few years and more prominently involved during and after the pandemic, joining efforts to continue supporting the youth and the greater community’s needs. Daniel explains that it is quite necessary for organisations to engage with each other, “Cross-sector learning and collaboration is so important for us because we can only do what we can do and what we’re good at, but that leaves a lot of gaps in the lives’ of our participants. Where can we turn, for instance, to address mental health challenges with the kids or where can we turn to get high school graduates and young people job skills training? We’ve always been looking for other partners to help contribute to the process and so yeah we’ve supported SCAN all along…”
SCAN is unique in that it creates relationship building opportunities, something unfortunately lacking in the social fabric of Stellenbosch for non-profit organisations, and it is important to eliminate the event of tunnel vision when establishing a healing centric approach to your problem solving. In overcoming historical challenges that still linger, a key factor for sustainability is through building strong relationships. “I think that one of the greatest things that SCAN is bringing from the grassroots level is helping us address the kind of power imbalance as a collective – getting organisations to stand as a collective, getting our voices heard and giving us opportunities to apply for funding,” says Daniel. Engaging with a member organisation like SCAN can help foster spaces where systemic changes can be addressed as a collective.
training4changeS is visible as a sport organisation but it’s more than a sport, the value that the organisation brings to the Stellenbosch community is grounded by a philosophy that supports young leaders’ holistic development – which lacks in the existing soccer structures. They are bringing a level of professionalism, expertise and excellence to the other NGOs involved in sport. The greater gap they are addressing is facilitating anti-racism intervention, social development and reconciliation.
t4c aims to create practical opportunities based on a model that is long-term focused and relational. “We cannot change the world but we can impact young lives,” expressed qualified futsal coaching instructor and one of the founding members of t4c, Quinton Allies. “t4c’s philosophy is always about relationships and going deeper so that we can have a meaningful relationship with the boys that we work with,” says Quinton.
This year t4c celebrates 10 years of serving the Stellenbosch community and training coaches across South Africa. Through their one year recurring programme t4c is supporting at-risk youth from as young as 7 years old in high-level futsal coaching, academic support, education outside the classroom, and mentoring.