NPO inspires happy faces

The Happy Faces Netball Club junior team are, from left, at back, Mila Buswana, Amahle Madlonkomo, Yolanda Lisese, Azola Makananda and NikitaTokwe. In front are Zimasa Tom, Choma Duru and Aluta Belwana.

A Phoenix resident is trying to change the course of the lives of young girls in her community through sport.

For the past 10 years, Thamela Ningiza, 48, has been developing young girls from the ages of 9 to 18, training them in netball. There is also a senior team, where women who are over 18 can join.

Her club, Happy Faces Netball Club, has been running since 2009 and she said that she started it because she wanted to get the children of her community out of the streets.

“I try to redirect their attention from all the bad elements we have outside and help them focus. Our communities of Phoenix and Joe Slovo have many issues like crime, drugs, and teenage pregnancy. I think that sport can be a great way to help these children and help encourage others,” she said.

Ms Ningiza said it has become more and more challenging to maintain the club because of a lack of sponsorship.

“Our biggest aim is to have as many of our youth involved in sports in order to make a true difference in our community. We have a few of our girls selected for Western Province.

“The issue at times is that some of the girls come from difficult home situations and can’t afford travelling and other expenses,” she said.

Ms Ningiza said she has one player, Silulo Nokwali, 22, who has been selected by the Cape Town Netball Federation to represent Western Province in the annual Garden Court Tournament. It will be held at the Bellville netball courts on Friday and Saturday September 6 and 7.

“She is an exceptional player, but her parents don’t work and she is still a student. If there are people out there who can help her, they may contact me on 083 404 8470 or contact the Cape Town Netball Federation directly and use her name as a reference,” she said.

In the same vein as former statesman Nelson Mandela, who said at the first Laureus Sports Awards in Monaco in 2000 that sport has the power to change the world, Ms Ningiza is trying to change her corner of the world – even if it’s just for the 35 girls and women in her club.