Alexandra Baseball continues to depend on support through charitable donations to help finance the costs of transporting the players to their games and to tournaments. Consider a donation this Giving Tuesday!
Have you read Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson? The idea was to build schools in Afghanistan, but the story was about more than building schools. That's how it has been for our group of expats supporting Alexandra Baseball. It's about giving young people opportunities to build self-esteem and teamwork and make something of themselves in an environment where few such opportunities exist.
We had moved from the U.S. to Johannesburg earlier that year. After the initial frenzy of buying a car, securing the elusive Traffic Register Number for foreigners, and getting the Internet connected, I was ready to tackle the American mother's oh so important task: finding new sports teams for my kids. This is how I stumbled upon Alexandra Baseball. The rest, as they say, is history.
Helping the Alexandra Baseball Club in Johannesburg while living there came in various ways. Some days it meant I was begging friends to bring used baseball pants from the U.S. when they came to visit. Other days it meant I was driving through half of Johannesburg all day running errands with Tedius, who always had a long list of places to go on those days.
Both Brazil and South Africa are saddled with extreme divisions between the poor and the rich. Both countries have a large population of young people, a certain vibe, a passion for football, as it is called everywhere but the United States, a flair for music and dancing. Both teams wear yellow jerseys that can easily be mistaken for one another.
In my previous post, I told you some stories about the circuitous travels of baseball equipment from American outfields into the heart of one of the poorest African townships. The longest and most circuitous route yet was traveled by the last batch I sent, the one that arrived in Johannesburg just a few weeks ago. Its a story that brings compassion and serendipity together.
I've said this about my Kilimanjaro Climb*, and the same is true for how we've been able to get baseball equipment from the United States into the hands of underprivileged kids in South Africa. If money was no issue, we would just gather donations and second hand equipment and ship it to Johannesburg. Done and dusted, destination reached. But then there wouldn't be a story to tell.
If you've followed my Alexandra story in the past, you will know that actually getting the stuff to South Africa is the real challenge. Shipping is expensive and involves so much paperwork and bureaucracy that I'd much rather volunteer for a root canal than do that again. And the truth is that the money going towards shipping could be much better used to support the kids directly.
Perhaps it will strike you as ironic that just a few days ago I was pleading for African women who are carrying a heavy load, both physically and figuratively, and now the person I am asking you to help is not a woman. He’s not quite a man, either, but rather a boy. He is an incredibly talented baseball player, growing up in the hardscrabble township of Alexandra. His name is Michael Lebepe.
I’ve told you about what we’ve accomplished so far with Alexandra Baseball, which mainly meant getting more equipment. I’ve also written about the upcoming Funfest in Alexandra where we’ll use the bulk of this equipment for the first time to give a lot more kids exposure to the sport. If the day is a success, then many more kids will sign on for league play in the upcoming season, and several schools will start fielding their own teams. And guess what that means? We’ll need more equipment!
In my last post I appealed to prospective expats moving to South Africa to help with transporting equipment we’ve already collected. But what if you’re just a reader of this blog and not moving to South Africa? If you would like to help with our effort, this is what you can do:
- Collect used baseball equipment by contacting your local high school or baseball club; you could hand out fliers and get the entire school involved, or better yet, let your kids do a “Baseball for Africa” drive, which I think would make a wonderful outreach project. Just think of how many people you know who have their garage full of unused sports gear. All of which would be put to very good use here in Africa. When you’re finished with your collection drive, all you need is a place to keep it for us until I can have it shipped to where the next expat container is leaving. I’ve included a sample donor letter below, which you’re welcome to use as is or modify according to your needs. I can also provide more pictures.
- Play it Again Sports often has very inexpensive used clothing and equipment on offer, and you might be able to negotiate a special deal with them, in case you’d like to help but don’t want to get involved in a donation drive.
- If you don’t have access to baseball gear but would like to be involved, consider making a donation to Alexandra Baseball. Any funds we raise in this way will be used for shipping expenses, team transport, and field improvements.
And finally, it always helps to spread the word. Become a fan of our Facebook page if you haven’t done so yet. If you just forward this article to your kids’ baseball or soccer ...