Ubuntu /ʊˈbʊntʊ/ I am because we are
During Nelson Mandela Day this past July, our Pass-a-ball Project connected with Ubuntu Football - an academy in Cape Town focused on empowering and uplifting young men through the beautiful game.
Thanks to the PARK community, we were able to pass our footballs directly to the various programs run at Ubuntu.
Founded as a response to fatherlessness in the broader community, we sat down with Director of Development, Shawn Buck, to explore why they believe football is the best response to this problem and how it is transforming the boys they work with.
Who are Ubuntu Football?
60% of children in South Africa are growing up without a father at home. This is a crisis in South African society that creates a lack of positive male role models.
Ubuntu Football's mission for the past 11 years has been to mentor and educate the next generation of great African leaders, society-changers, and footballers. Based in Cape Town, we recruit boys at 11 years old and invest in our 80 players for the next 7+ years of their life.
We are the only Southern-African academy holistically providing globally recognized football training, quality education, deep formation of personal character, and an academy family home.
Our vision is to see families, communities, and society as a whole healthy and flourishing due to the influence of Ubuntu Football's graduates.
Why use football in pursuit of your vision?
Firstly, football is a language here in South Africa, especially among youth from the disadvantaged communities we exist to empower. You can't go far without seeing a street game in the townships, a TV blaring a Man U or Liverpool game, or hearing two kids arguing about which of their favorite players is the best.
It's the best way to connect with the kids we want to raise into future leaders, which allows us to give them the education and character formation they also need.
Secondly, the soft skills learned on the pitch and the pathways that football can open up for young people are tremendous. Football is a great platform builder, from professional football to university scholarships to preparation for quality employment.
Ubuntu Football was a response to fatherlessness - how have you seen role-modelling and leadership through the game change the kids taking part?
Our coaches do more than just football, they are mentors and role models for our boys. How they interact with and lead the players to how they take an interest in them beyond their football skills helps to model effective and positive leadership.
We also have 5 values everyone at Ubuntu tries to live out: Family, Growth, Excellence, Positivity, and Honour. Through our coaches modelling these values, we see our players start to take them on and model them for others too.
How did PARK's Pass-a-ball Project contribute to your mission at Ubuntu?
You can imagine that a football academy training four days a week and playing on the weekend goes through a lot of soccer balls. Getting high-quality balls from PARK helps us continue training at a high level and producing players that can access opportunities in professional football and university.
"Ubuntu" is a Southern-African word that best translates to interconnectedness or "I am because we are." Basically, that my value and my worth come from others having value and worth.
The Pass-a-ball Project is the embodiment of ubuntu: the broader community investing in our boys because it will ultimately make the world a better place.
Nelson Mandela once said that sport has the ability to speak to the youth in a language they understand - do you believe football can change the world for future generations?
I don't just believe it can; I'm seeing it happen daily. Talent is universal, but opportunity is not. Football is helping the youth we work with get amazing opportunities they wouldn't have had otherwise, which is helping them develop platforms they are using to invest in the next generation.
The teacher leading in classrooms, the police officer protecting communities, the National Team player inspiring a country, and the entrepreneur investing in his employees.
These are the things that football is doing at Ubuntu.
Learn more about Ubuntu Football and their programs in Cape Town.