Transforming juvenile offenders in South Africa

Dec 19, 2011

End of Year Report

Dear Supporter,

Thanks for all your support to the Hope Academy project in 2011. This year has been an amazing year for the project as we have continued to develop our prison based Academy in Drakenstein and our community based Academy in Soweto. As you are aware our prison based Academy has been our flag ship project and received a lot of attention globally. The Academy uses soccer as a tool to rehabilitate juvenile offenders and lead them out of a life of violence and crime. The reoffending rate in South Africa is 85% for offenders but currently our Academy program has a total of 7% of our inmates in prison presently. This is an amazing statistic. We were recently nominated for the Beyond Sport global awards which awards the best sport for development projects globally. We were a finalist out of 425 entries from 125 different countries, sadly we lost out by 1 vote! However we had delegates come and visit the program and they were blown away by what has happened in the prison and the lives of many of these young men. The Soweto Academy has grown from strength to strength this year as we have continued to build strong foundations for the Hope Academy model to be replicated in other countries in Africa from the beginning of 2013. We believe strongly that we need to be providing long term intervention programs in Africa so that our children can have the best possible chance of success. We have had children grow in amazing ways, some of them excelling in school, others in football and all of them have grown in their characters. 2012 will be an exciting year for all of us as we continue to develop Hope Academy further. Your support has been a massive help to us as we look to continue to walk a road with some of the most vulnerable and marginalized youth in South Africa. Here are just two stories of lives impacted this year from both Drakenstein and Soweto: SIMPHIWE MITIGANE Hope Academy first started running trials to select prisoners for the new Academy in Drakenstein Prison in January 2008. During this time Simphiwe was locked in isolation for violently stabbing two other inmates in the prison. Simphiwe was an active '28' gang member and had a violent history. However, he also had a love for football. Whilst the trials were taking place, Simphiwe begged the wardens to allow him to attend and trial for the Academy. One warden had pity on him and took him to the field. Once the Hope Academy coaches saw his talent they decided to give Simphiwe a chance. The Academy took a risk, shared God's love with him, and invested in his life. One day in the Academy cell he decided to leave the gang and embrace a dramatically different way of life. Simphiwe's life was changed and he has subsequently become a strong role model for other Prisoners. Since being released he has become a motivational speaker for youth in poor communities, sharing his story and the message of hope which changed him forever. THABISO NOKWE Thabiso is 10 years old. He lost his mother in 2008 and has never known his father. Thabiso currently lives with his aunt and four cousins in a small shack in Soweto. No one is employed in his home and the family lives off a social grant from the Government. Despite this, he has made huge progress since joining the Soweto Hope Academy in April 2010. He has received 6 awards for academic progress in school and is also showing great potential on the soccer field. The Academy coaches play a significant role in his life as he has no father or male role model to support him. The Academy is also committed to developing him holistically until he leaves school and working alongside his family. With no regular intervention from positive role models, Thabiso would be in danger of making poor choices later in his life. Through long term intervention and mentoring we are giving Thabiso the best opportunity to be successful in the future. For more stories click on the URL below, we are so thankful to see these young lives changed. We have also uploaded our end of year report for you to look through if you would like more information on the work of Hope Academy this year. Please consider supporting us further in 2012. We still require equipment, one of our biggest needs is a new kit for the prison Academy so consider contributing to that. Our other biggest need is the car we use to drive through to the prison, it takes our coaches over 2 1/2 hours each day we visit the prison and we are using quite an old unreliable car, we know this is a big ask but something one of you may want to consider helping this project with.

We wish you all a great Christmas and New Year and once again thanks for your kind support.

The Hope Academy Team


Oct 4, 2011

Exciting Times

Zola - giving back to his community after prison!
Zola - giving back to his community after prison!

Dear Friends and Supporters,

We trust you are all well. We want to update you on some exciting things happening with the Hope Academy project in South Africa.

Once again thanks for supporting this project and making it possible for us to reach some of the most poorest and marginalised youth in Africa. I will try and keep it brief!

1. Our prison project has grown tremendously this year. The prison authorities have become more and more excited about the program and have started to oversee some of the administrative and coaching duties of the Academy. Recently we have had many young men released from the program and we are following them up in the communities. This is an area we are looking to develop more as these young men need support and encouragement the most when they are released. Currently 27 boys have been released since we began in 2008. 3 are studying, 9 are employed, 9 unemployed, 1 we have lost contact with and 5 are back in prison. Unemployment is a big factor with 85% unemployment in the townships and cape flats, add a criminal record and you can imagine how hard it is for these boys to get jobs, even the most determined boy can become disillusioned. This is something we want to work further on next year through supporting the boys in the communities more. We have a reunion on the 15th of October for all the young men who are released, it should be a great time together. However, when you get a phone call and hear one of our graduates say he has passed his Level 3 in Electrical Engineering and wants to give back to his community it makes what we do so worth it.

2. Also we have launched our new website. Please check it out as it will give you more of an idea of the Hope Academy project and how you can support us further.

3. We have developed a strategic business plan that will enable us to develop twenty football Academies in disadvantaged communities across Africa by 2020. If you would like to see this or believe you know people who want to make a significant difference in the lives of many young children then please contact me on

4. Finally please check this video on youtube from our Soweto Academy this gives the story of two of our young children in the Academy - it shows the reality of our situation and how the Academy is so essential in raising the aspirations of disadvantaged youth.

Join us on Facebook & Twitter as this will help you keep updated with everything in Hope Academy:!/aishopeacademy!/aishopeacademy

There is so much more to share but I appreciate you are all busy people, please feel free to contact us if you want to find out any more about the Academies.


Zola - giving back to his community after prison!
Zola - giving back to his community after prison!


Jul 18, 2011

Beyond Sport Nomination

New Hope Academy Logo
New Hope Academy Logo

Hi Everyone,

We are pleased to announce that our prison based Drakestein Hope Academy has been nominated for the Beyond Sport Awards in Cape Town from the 5th - 8th of December. This is a great honor as our work has been recognised as a leader in the area of development through sport. You can find our more information here:

Also we have had a great time in our Soweto Academy. On Youth Day we had a visit from professional players and patrons Ricardo Katza and Matthew Booth who helped coach over eighty children in the community, including many of our Academy children.

Our captain in Drakenstein was released from prison last week. Zola has been an inspiration to so many prisoners and we are excited to see how he will impact many people in his community in the future. Please click on this link to learn more about his release, this report is done by our intern who has been working in the prison this year, it makes for a great read!

We have also been given great media attention in South Africa through DSTV and Supersport. Supersport has done a 5 minute broadcast on our soccer clinic in Mamelodi which was run in preparation of a new Hope Academy which will be launched in Mamelodi township in 2012. The broadcast will be shown at different time periods over the month of August.

Finally we have launched our new logo and I have attached it to this report. We hope you like it, the ball signifies the footballing excellence we give each child through our coaching, the light represents faith and the rays pointing towards the light represent a bright future.

Thanks for all you support for this project and helping us help many young children across Africa.

I will leave you with a quote from one of our children Thokazane (10 years) from our Soweto Academy, it will give you an idea of some of the situations we face with our children in the Academy.

I stay with my 4 grannys and 4 cousins, 5 aunts and my grandfather and two uncles, we are a family of 19. My mother passed away of HIV/ Aids in 2008. I do not know where my father is. Only 3 people are employed at home. My one cousin and I are supported by one of our grannys who earns a monthly social grant from the government. My cousin is in a similar situation as I am since he also lost his mom in 2009 also through HIV and AIDS. I love school and I’m in Grade 5. If don’t make it as soccer player I want to be a police woman.

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.


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Project Leader

Ben Marais

AIS SA Director
Pretoria, Gauteng South Africa

Where is this project located?

Map of Transforming juvenile offenders in South Africa