There is nothing more exhilarating than seeing children play on the sports field adjacent to The Kusasa Academy. The air is chilly this time of year but as the boys run and tackle each other, sweaters and scarves are sporadically shed and scattered to the side of the field. Under the watchful eye of coach Divan Jelander, Sports and Recreation Coordinator, they communicate with intent and impromptu strategies are formulated for the best moves. Today rugby is taken very, very seriously.

At first glance you see happy, smiling faces but under the surface it is a reality that some of these children face difficult situations at home. In a community where poverty and social disparity is rife, these boys need all the support they can get from parents and teachers. Unfortunately, many of these boys are accustomed to growing up without a father figure. 

The Kusasa Project often uses sports as a tool for emotional support to break down gender stereotypes and promote a more positive and inclusive view of masculinity. By encouraging boys to express their emotions and seek support when they need it, the group can help to reduce stigma around mental health and create a culture of openness and empathy. Overall, the motivation behind creating a boys emotional support group through sport is to promote holistic health and wellness for boys and create a supportive community where they can thrive. 

That is why The Kusasa Project is privileged to have coach Divan on the team. Divan is involved in training two Springbok rugby players and is a seasoned sportsman himself. He spends two afternoons a week coaching the boys the foundation of various sports, from basketball to baseball, American football to rugby. 

Divan was primarily recruited to create an emotional support group through sports where boys have the opportunity to engage in physical activity, which can be a natural mood booster and stress reliever. By coaching them, he provides a safe and supportive environment where boys can build social connections, develop emotional intelligence, and improve their mental health through participation in sports activities. Many boys face societal pressures to suppress their emotions and may struggle to express their feelings and seek support when they are struggling. This can lead to feelings of isolation, anxiety, and depression.

Divan agrees with these sentiments and believes that playing sports teaches them how to handle disappointment in a constructive way. “I use sports to teach them that there are rules and there are right ways to handle emotions,” he says. Though it is important to Divan that they learn about mobility, there is, however, a much deeper value he hopes to add to their lives by spending time with them on the field. “As some grow older, I can see they yearn for a father figure. Many of the boys think that what they experience and see in the community is normal. When they do sport, you can see them repeating similar behaviour.” He explains that the rules and discipline he teaches them might stay with them for the rest of their lives. 

As an avid sportsman, one can see that Divan loves coaching and working with children. He knows that some of the boys have very loving fathers but that they have to work long hours to provide for them. For Divan, standing in as a ‘bonus-father’ is a joy and a privilege. “I’m here to give love and attention where I can”. This very important work is only possible with the help of our generous donors. If you are interested in taking this journey alongside coach Divan and the staff of The Kusasa Academy to enrich the lives of our wonderful children, click here.