When ex-drug addict Mark Nicholson decided to turn his life around, he decided he would do it not only for the benefit of himself and his family, but also to make a difference in Lavender Hill, where he has lived for the past 26 years.
Since 2003 Mark and his wife Shireen Nicholson have been changing the lives and minds of the youth in Lavender Hill by providing sporting opportunities for children from the area.
Through his Islanders Soccer Club, Mark provides coaching for boys and girls aged nine to 21 years old. The club is registered with the South African Football Association – Cape Town (SAFA-CapeTown). Their project, through which they also offer children basic life skills and other activities to keep them off the streets, is not a registered non-profit organisation and so they have battled to secure funding.
Mr Nicholson explained that because the children need an incentive to keep them on the team, he and his wife try their best to give them a meal after their games are played.
“One parent managed to donate some sausage to the team, this past week we had a braai and gave the kids something to eat, we’ve had once-off sponsors but 90 percent comes from my wife and I,” Mr Nicholson told Southern Mail.
The Islanders Soccer Club has training on an open field in Lavender Hill on Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 5pm to
7 pm and needs transport to and from the matches they play outside the area.
Mr Nicholson said the children are eager and often arrive at his home immediately after school has finished for the day. “The kids play at South Peninsula every Saturday and are in a structured league.
“Before training they already collect the footballs from my house and you will find them playing and warming up at the field. Firstly we ask them have you completed your homework? Because we motivate them to do better,” said Mr Nicholson.
He and his wife have set many goals, on of which is to acquire a minibus taxi to transport the children, and helmets and knee pads for the girls who do the long board skating.
“We aim to take these kids out of Lavender Hill to let them experience new things,” said Mr Nicholson. “We took about 20 kids to Athlone stadium to watch a live game and they could not stop asking me when they would get the opportunity to go again.”