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By Ian Hughes

Journalist


KES rugby stars volunteer to support Johannesburg Children’s Home

KES first team rugby players help upgrade the Johannesburg Children’s Home garden, doubling food production and enhancing equipment.


This is an initiative which fully restores one’s tenuous belief in the fundamentally decent nature of our wayward youth.

An initiative which sees young men, school leavers, matriculants – all of 17 to 18 years of age – surrender precious free time to improve the lives of the less fortunate.

And, remarkably, these young men are drawn from the privileged ranks of top Johannesburg boys’ school King Edward VII in Houghton.

But more than that, these youngsters are all first team rugby players in a school renowned for its rugby history and consistent success.

And allied with this burden of expectation and hope to succeed on the rugby field is the personal and family imperative of matric success.

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Young men chosen to help

Nevertheless, and despite these heavy responsibilities, these young men have chosen to help, in this final critically important year of their school lives, to improve the lives of the inmates of the Johannesburg Children’s Home.

And to do so by doubling the quality and quantity of the home’s meagre output of vital greens, vegetables and other foodstuffs, and upgrading the garden equipment.

Pupils at the Johannesburg Children’s Home Early Childcare Development facility in a classroom. Picture: Michel Bega

The efforts are supervised and coordinated by first team rugby coach Marco Engelbrecht and his assistant Sheldon de Robillard.

Old Boys of relatively recent vintage – Engelbrecht and De Robillard both played first team rugby between 2011 and 2013 – their commitment and admiration for their young charges is heart-warming.

“I must stress this is the boys’ initiative and nothing to do with Sheldon or me.”

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“Our involvement is simply in facilitating, guiding and helping in whatever way we can. The team comprises of the Reds – 30 boys – the first team and reserves.”

Idea is to pay back

The idea is to pay back. They are privileged, and know it, and the drive is to pay back something to the needy.

“As a first step, they approached Sports for Life for help and it was agreed the boys would raise R70 000 and the company would make up the balance. My understanding is that have already raised between R30 000 and R40 000,” said De Robillard.

“Now these boys are exceptionally busy. They train and play first team schools’ rugby and they are writing matric at the end of the year. Nevertheless, over the next three months, and in three periods of two hours or so, they will work at the home’s gardens.

KES rugby stars volunteer to support Johannesburg Children’s Home
Tumelo Lechaba in the vegetable garden. Picture: Michel Bega

“We’re currently in the first stage which involves clearing the garden, enlarging it and generally preparing the area.”

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Liaising with the boys is the home’s head of operations Fiona Duke – a veteran of 22 years at the home who knows and understands the needs and ongoing challenges better than most.

Look after the needs of abused, neglected or orphaned children

Wandering through the extensive grounds of this extraordinary establishment set up in 1892 to look after the needs of over 60 abused, neglected or orphaned children, Duke was enthusiastic and grateful.

“We take in children, boys and girls referred to us by the courts from the age of three up to in some instances 21.

“We’re always short of money and always needy. So this is a wonderful initiative from the KES rugby boys. They visited us with the view of simply wanting to help in any way they could. We decided on the food and vegetable garden, as adequate first-class nutrition is vital for the development of our children,” she said.

“We have a programme called Farming God’s Way, which is an environmentally friendly approach, eliminating all unnatural farming methods, fertilisers, etc, but our output is inadequate. We only produce about 30% of what we need, let alone a surplus to sell.”

ALSO READ: King Edward VII Preparatory School pride themselves in their excellent facilities

King Edward VII School and it’s rugby first team are clearly demonstrating the meaning of service, and have much to be proud of.

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