Egoli Youth Empowerment, an outreach programme that uses squash as a catalyst to empower children and provide them with opportunities, recently completed their first session of the year in Johannesburg, as squash programmes around the world continue to recover from the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Supported by the PSA Foundation – the charitable arm of the Professional Squash Association (PSA) – Egoli Youth Empowerment helps people from the disadvantaged communities within the inner-city of Johannesburg, Soweto and Alexandra. Within these communities, infrastructure is often poor and many residents live in densely populated areas, amid high levels of poverty, crime, HIV/AIDS and unemployment.
With the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic severely disrupting day-to-day life in South Africa, which was the first country to report on the mutated Omicron variant, the return of the Egoli Youth Empowerment programme to Johannesburg comes as a welcome sign.
At the University of Johannesburg Doornfontein Campus, 150 learners from inner-city schools attended the session, facilitated by Request Sinyandiwo, the Innercity Head Coach, together with his team members, Olance Mkhize and Brian Mncube.
At Doornfontein, a fun and energising bootcamp was facilitated by the Egoli Youth Empowerment coaches, setting the tone for the rest of the event. Accompanied by stirring music, learners participated in a variety of drills including: quick jumping jacks, spider steps, high knees, and pushups.
Then, the young players were divided into rotational stations for the highlight of the day: squash, street racket, and fitness sessions!
By keeping the participants in smaller groups and working with Street Racket Switzerland Founder Marcel Straub to introduce the fast-growing outdoor game to the children, Egoli Youth Empowerment has been able to reintroduce their programme in a safe and sustainable way.
Explaining the impact the return of Egoli Youth Empowerment to Johannesburg would have, Programme CEO Dikana Mthombeni said: “Our programme not only gives learners an opportunity to learn a new game but it focuses on holistic development that covers emotional well-being, building leadership skills and giving learners opportunities to improve their academic performance. We are not only focused on building squash champions, but instilling tangible life lessons that youths can carry forward even beyond the project span.”
Since the programme’s return to Johannesburg, further sessions have been run, ensuring valuable growth experiences continue to be provided.