Ambassadors In Sport

Our mission is to run Hope Academies in South Africa. Hope Academy is an intensive and holistic football based program that provides underprivileged children in Africa the opportunity to fulfil their God-given potential on and off the field.
May 2, 2011

GlobalGiving Visits Hope Academy

I had the pleasure of visiting the Hope Academy, a part of the Ambassadors in Sport program, in South Africa.  The program was started in 2008 by Mark Slessenger based on three principles:  Football, Faith, and Future.  The goal is to use Football (the US equivalent of soccer) to inspire inmates serving up to 10 years in prison to choose constructive paths for themselves while serving time and after they are released.  The impact this program has had on its participants is palpable. 

Thulani, a second-year soccer player, gave me a tour of the Academy.  Beds are made every morning, school is attended every day, and football practice is taken seriously.  Thulani and his comrades seek education, hold upstanding jobs and roles in the prison, including running the library, and sing songs of motivation in perfect harmony before play.  They have won all but two games in 2010, which is an impressive record for any team and amazing considering their competitors are professional South African leagues that play for a living. 

The structure of the game is applied to daily life.  Men receive a green card as a first warning when a rule is violated.   Rules include things like “No bad attitudes”, “Must Participate in School”, and “No Fighting”.  After three cards, a person is expelled from the program and placed back into the general prison population.  Moreover, there are trials every year to invite new people to the Hope Academy and also ensure current participants stay on top of their game.  These rules serve as real incentives to manage behavior in a productive way and to keep people focused on achieving in the program. 

In a prison that has nearly 100% participation in gangs (identified by numbers that distinguish each group’s notoriety--26 (thievery), 27 (blood), or 28 (rape)--and 85% of people return to prison for new crimes after being released, the Hope Academy has 0% gang activity and only 10% recidivism.  What’s more is there has been just one verbal disagreement between two people in the Hope Academy since it started, compared to nightly assaults occurring in the general prison population.  The success of the Academy is awe-inspiring and its only limitation is being able to accept more people into the program.  The football program has been so successful that the prison added three new sports programs - completely supported by the government - within the prison for Rugby, Cricket, and Basketball.

Feb 24, 2011

Hope Academy Africa - new focus

Children line up for Warm Up at Soweto HA
Children line up for Warm Up at Soweto HA

Dear Supporters, We trust you are all well. I wanted to update you all to let you know that we have updated our Global Giving page to include our full Hope Academy program throughout Africa. Hope Academy began in Drakenstein Prison in 2008 but through the success of the program we have opened other Hope Academies across Africa that aim to bring hope to many children. Last year we opened a Hope Academy in Soweto and this has become our community model that we will continue to develop in 2011. The Academy works with 36 children from poor backgrounds in Dobsonville Soweto. We have local leaders that invest in the children through training sessions 3 days a week and league matches on the weekend. Our aim is to strengthen the Hope Academy model this year so we can train and equip some of our African leaders to run effective Hope Academies in Nigeria, Kenya, Zambia and Mozambique in 2012. Within each of these countries we are running soccer based educational programs and these will be formulated into Hope Academies in 2012. Hope Academies are based in poor communities and aim to work intensely with young children so we can help develop a new generation of role models and leaders across Africa in the future, both on and off the soccer field. Each Academy will also develop community based programs such as soccer clinics in schools, coaching courses, tournaments and events that promote the Academy but also benefit the community. Recently we had 400 volunteers help lay a new grass field in our partner school in Soweto, this was amazing as we saw many people in the community from toddlers to grandparents helping lay a field that will be used for Hope Academy and the community for years to come. We will continue our prison Academy but this is a report to inform you that the project is growing and now being used in Soweto and will be used in other communities in the future across Africa. I hope this excites you as you have been part of the prison project which has served at the catalyst to develop other Academies across Africa! We value your continued support and if you have any questions about Hope Academy and the future plans please don't hesitate to contact me. Please check our out updated page on Global Giving also for more information. We are also finalising our trials for the prison Academy in Drakenstein this month and excited about impacting many young men in prison this year.

Links:

Dec 9, 2010

End of Year Report.

Wow! What a year we have had in the Drakenstein Hope Academy. The year has been extremely successful on many fronts. Throughout the year we have seen many young men develop in their football, faith and future. The past few months have been busy as we prepare for the 2011 season. This year we have had around 200 people visit the Academy from countries all around the World. We have also had around 25 local schools amounting to +-1000 children come and visit the prison, learn about crime and hear the testimonies of the young men in the Academy. We can only marvel at God in what he is doing in and through the Academy. Enjoy some updates from the Academy!

FAMILY DAY

We had the privilege to run a family day alongside Correctional Services for all the young men. Many of the families attended and it was great to see the young men reunite with family members and especially those who have young children outside. The day was a great success.

GRADUATION DAY

On the 27th of November we had a graduation day which was a very special time. Many awards were handed out and the young men were rewarded for their hard work and dedication this year. Many will be leaving next year and it was a time to formally acknowledge young men who we have worked with for some time.

COLLEGE OF CAPE TOWN

We are glad to announce that we have signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the COCT for educational and skills development of young men who have been released from the Hope Academy Program. This is a significant agreement as we look to empower these young men and give them practical training to help them find employment and realise their dreams. An article on Hope Academy was also published in the College’s regional magazine about our partnership. We have had two young men on the Electrical Engineering course and one young man is signed up on the Automotive course for 2011.

2011 PREPARATION

Over the past few months we have been facilitating trials in other prisons across the Western Cape. These trials are to select new squad members for 2011. We have selected 30 inmates on our provisional list and these young men will be invited for a final trial in January 2011. We hope to have the new squad in place by the end of January 2010.

FOLLOW UP

What is going to happen to all the young men being released?  With 85% of prisoners returning to prison in South Africa Hope Academy makes every effort to support our ex-Academy members once they leave prison. Here are some stats on the 20 boys who have graduated from Hope Academy since 2008.
Studying        21%
Employed    26%
Unemployed    32%
Unknown    11%
Back in Prison    10%

CONCLUSION

Finally I would like to thank all our supporters and partners for helping us bring true hope to these young men in prison. Without you it would not be possible.
I would also like to thank our team in the prison Adam Bull, Dinesh Nevins Selvadurai, Lindsey Petit and Bruce Nadin for all their hard work and dedication.

With thanks, Mark Slessenger

Player Profile

Chris Ntese has been with the Academy since 2009. Chris will be released in January and has been working on his business management certificate whilst in the Academy. We have high hopes for Chris as he is a talented player and we hope to get him trials with a first division team in South Africa as well as assist him further with his studies. Chris has grown in his football, faith and future and won 2 awards at the end of year Graduation. This young man is going to do great things once released.

Thulani Gantso arrived with us in January from Pollsmoor Prison. It was a miracle that he arrived as we never selected him on the trials! However God had a plan for Thulani and us and he has been a revelation in the Academy. Thulani will continue with us next year and the Academy will be putting him through a Sports Management Course. Thulani is a great example to the other players and can be seen here with his daughter.

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