Football to address fatherlessness in South Africa

by Ambassadors In Sport
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.


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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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%


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.

Dear Supporters,

We would like to announce formally our partnership with the College of Cape Town. Our Hope Academy in Drakenstein has signed an Memorandum of Understanding with the College of Cape Town so that young offenders that graduate from the Hope Academy program can receive bursary's to study further and receive skills training.

This is a huge agreement for Hope Academy and enables the program to practically offer great opportunities for young men to gain self respect and gain qualifications that can help them find employment in the future.

"The College is excited to work alongside AIS and offer opportunities to the young men from the Hope Academy. We all deserve a second chance in life and the College of Cape Town believes in helping all young people pursue education and employment. This agreement brings hope not only to the young men from Hope Academy but also to the future of South Africa" Charlene Beeming, Research and Curriculum Development.

Currently the agreement has enabled two young men to join an Electrical Engineering beginners course and we have one ex-Academy member signed up for the Automotive course later this month. With many young men expected to be released from the Academy and prison early next year the agreement gives us the ability to offer something tangible to young men and help them not re-offend and find hope in life.

Thanks for all your continue support.

Jacobus Adonis who was released this month.
Jacobus Adonis who was released this month.

At the end of the last month we were priveledged to attend the Beyond Sport Awards in Chicago. The Awards selected a final shortlist of 40 projects from 400 entries around the globe. The Hope Academy project was entered into the Social Inclusion category but we sadly did not win the award. The expierence was very beneficial as we networked with other sports development projects around the globe and we were also involved in workshops and leadership training.

Through the conference we were excited to learn that our prison Academy project is very unique and is one of it's kind worldwide! We shared the concept with other people and they could not believe the freedom we have in transferring young men from other prisons and selecting our players. We believe we have been given a great opportunitiy in this program and through our hard work Correctional Services have seen the benefit of what we are doing.

Here are some statistics from our Drakenstein Academy to show what the young men who have graduated from our projects are doing outside of prison. We have had 19 young men released since we launched in 2008.

32 % Studying

32% Employed

16% Unemployed

10 % Lost Contact

10% Back in Prison

We are excited about how our young men are developing since being released from prison. In South Africa the average recidivism (return to prison) rate of prisoners is 85%. Through our tough discipline, love and holisitic program these young men are truly changing and becoming responsible citizens once released.

We have also developed a strong relationship with the College of Cape Town who offer skills training courses for our young men once released. We have 3 young men signed up already and have courses ready for some of our graduates at the end of this year. This will provide the young men with practical qualifications and job opportunities that will help them lift out of poverty.

Finally one of our Academy members Jacobus Adonis was released this month. Jacobus was one of our brightest star's this year after being transferred from Mossel Bay prison which is 4 hours away from Drakenstein. Jacobus was heavly involved in the 28 gang but transformed his life this year when he joined the Academy. We have linked him to one of our partner churches in George where he lives. This year I personally saw how Jacobus left the gang, changed his life through professing a Christian faith, impacted the whole Academy and showed a strong desire to work within his community once released. This is why the Hope Academy exisits, to see more young men like Jacobus and others have a second chance in life and take it with both hands. There is no better reward than seeing a young life touched and transformed!

Thanks for your continued support and we need your support for the program to continue next year and for us to manage and support the young men once released. Please get in touch if you can assist in anyway.

Kind Regards,

Mark Slessenger

Academy Director


Team Photo with Ajax First Team
Team Photo with Ajax First Team

On Wednesday the 21st of July the academy received a visit from Ajax Cape Town. Ajax are one of the top professional clubs in South Africa and have produced players like Steven Piennar (Everton and South Africa) and Enoch Eyong (Ajax Amsterdam & Cameron). Ajax came and ran a coaching clinic and then played a match against the Academy. We were surprised to learn the head coach of Ajax, Foppe de Hann was going to put out his first team against the Hope Academy. The match was played at a high tempo and many of the Academy players had fantastic games and we only lost 1:0. Ajax then visited the cell where the boys sleep in the prison and learnt more about the program and what they are learning in the academy. The day was a huge success and Ajax said they would like to do more work with the Academy in the future.



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Organization Information

Ambassadors In Sport

Location: Pretoria, South Africa - South Africa
Website: http:/​/​
Ambassadors In Sport
Project Leader:
Ben Marais
AIS SA Director
Pretoria, Gauteng South Africa

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