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 ...