Lerato Mka is a 14-year-old girl who lives in Motherwell, near Port Elizabeth. Following the death of her father, who she was very close to, her mother noticed that Lerato started retreating into herself, losing her usual resilience and determination. “When my dad died, I did not know what to do. He was my hero and my friend. I especially missed him during the school holidays because we used to spend a lot of time together. Since his passing, my school holidays have been consumed by watching television and this made me miss him even more,” says Lerato. The September school holidays last year however, signalled a new beginning for Lerato as she enrolled in the Castrol Skillz Holiday Programme.
Lerato’s mother, Queeneth Mka, is impressed with the effect the programme has had on her daughter. “When she came back from the first day, I noticed a difference in her immediately. She was so much more vocal and I saw the daughter that I knew emerge again,” says Queeneth.
Lerato is very enthusiastic about her future since the programme. She now has big plans to become a Chartered Accountant.
Neo Mothoa (13), from Molato in Soweto dreams of becoming a scientist so that he can have a hand in helping people suffering from HIV/Aids. Although he has never been directly affected by HIV/Aids, his understanding about the impact the pandemic has on communities was increased during the Castrol Skillz Holiday Programme.
During the September 2009 school holidays, Neo attended the Castrol Skillz Holiday Programme which uses the game of football to teach young people about HIV/Aids.
For Neo the impact of the programme has been far reaching. “The Castrol Skillz Holiday Programme taught me to respect people and to treat everyone equally. I also had a lot of fun playing soccer and making new friends. I think the most important thing about the programme was learning about HIV/Aids and how to protect myself from getting HIV/Aids. I learnt that we (the youth) are the future and it is important that we tell everyone about HIV/Aids, so that we can stop it from killing more people,” says Neo.
Thirteen year old Tebogo Tshimane lives in Soweto and admits to being inspired by her mother, Dineo, who is a pre-school teacher and her grandmother, Elizabeth. However for this family discussing HIV/Aids isn’t something that has come easy. Luckily for Tebogo things changed when she attended the Castrol Skillz Holiday Programme, enabling her to openly discuss HIV/Aids and the impact it has on families.
Tebogo’s mother who is the sole bread-winner for the family has always instilled the importance of education and the value of independence in her daughter. She was happy to learn that her daughter was signing up for a holiday programme that would keep her busy during the holiday season and teach her valuable life skills.
“The Castrol Skillz Holiday Programme inspired me to treat people as equals and to make a difference in my community by teaching others what I learnt during the programme,” says Tebogo.
According to Tebogo, the Castrol Skillz Holiday Programme not only provided her with important information on HIV/Aids but also gave her something different to do during the school holidays.
“In addition to learning, I also made new friends and got to play soccer which is considered to be a sport for boys. One of the most important lessons I learnt was how important is it for our generation to remain HIV/Aids free as we are tomorrow’s leaders. At the end of the day we all have choices and I chose to treat everyone with respect regardless of their HIV status and I have also made the choice to work hard towards my dreams,” says Tebogo.
Fourteen year old Nokhanya Linda from Umlazi in Durban lost both her parents at an early age and had to turn to her uncle and aunt to provide the necessary care and support for her and her four siblings.
Nokhanya signed up to the programme during the extended school holidays taking place during the world cup. At the camp, through fun-filled, soccer-based activities she quickly picked up vital life skills and HIV/Aids prevention messages. “It is difficult for many people to talk openly about HIV/Aids in our communities. Many people don’t understand it and are afraid of it and so they are made to feel isolated and alone. Being part of the programme has taught me so much about this disease but more importantly it has taught me how to help others who don’t understand,” says Nokhanya.
Fourteen year old Nokhanya Linda understands more about HIV/Aids thanks to the Castrol Holiday Skillz Programme.
HIV/AIDS has been taboo subject for Bonani Madikane (15) from Motherwell Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape Province. She has never engaged in an HIV/AIDS conversation, and did not think that there are people living with the virus. Though they are given some information about the pandemic at school, it has not delivered in an engaging and encouraging way like at the Castrol Skillz Holiday Programme does.
“Now I am able talk about AIDS, the camp has taught me to open up and talk about something I never used to talk about. I did not believe that people that there are people living with HIV/AIDS. I can’t wait for the schools to open so I can share what I learnt with my peers. I want people my age to try to abstain and stay away from Sugar Daddies and Mammas. When they are at the right age they must get tested first before engaging in any sexual activity and then remain faithful to their partners.
As the youngest family member of six, 15 year old Siphiwe Shabangu never talked about HIV/Aids with them.“I have already learnt so much about HIV from the camp and I even went home and told my family everything I am learning here. Before I went to the camp, we had never spoken about HIV/Aids as my family thought I was too young,” says Shabangu. “But now I am able to discuss HIV/ Aids with my family and tell them about it.”
For this outspoken fifteen year old, his experience of at the camp has meant he is determined to make healthy life choices, equipping others with the same great skills and knowledge he gained at the camp. “I really like the Castrol Skillz Holiday Programme and I can’t wait until I turn 16 because then I will be allowed to be a coach and I can make a real difference in the lives of other young people.”
Castrol Skillz Holiday Programme participant Siphiwe Shabangu (15) he plans to be a coach at a camp next year.