Vusi Mahlaba is a phenomenal 28-year-old man doing great things in the town of Clarens, situated in the Free State. He owns a successful business in Johannesburg now, but his organisation, the Vusi Mahlaba Foundation, works with the community to make a difference in the lives of young people from the township where he grew up. Clarens faces a grave problem with unemployment.. As a result, the community was concerned with crime, teen pregnancy and substance abuse.
Vusi decided to make a difference by using exercise to keep the community occupied. He realised that the buy-in of community members was vital in order to make sure that the programme was successful. According to Vusi: “A healthy body means a healthy mind. I started the exercise programmes to give the youth something positive to occupy their time with.” This started off with soccer and running programmes, which were well received.
At this stage, Vusi wanted to expand the programme into something that could include young women. He settled on a simple solution – aerobics. “The boys were doing well with soccer, but at the moment we don’t have any girls teams. Aerobics appeals to women of all ages and the community loves to join in,” adds Vusi.
Unfortunately, the aerobics classes can only be held when the sound system is working – and it is often broken. The community also needs items such as soccer balls, shoes suitable for various sporting activities and a host of other requirements. Vusi would prefer that anyone who would like to help does so in the form of physical donations rather than monetary contributions.
The soccer teams have grown from one when they started, to six. All the teams are participating in competitive tournaments and two young players have been contracted to play professionally for well-known South African soccer club.
So, how has exercise changed things in the town of Clarens? The community now has a positive outlet to keep them occupied. Vusi believes that these programmes are not only contributing positively towards the youth in the area, but it is also a contributing factor towards reducing crime in Clarens.
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