Last week 17 young South African boys embarked on a trip of a lifetime to Northern Ireland on a football tour thanks to the pupils of Friends School.
The boys are part of the Sports Academy George charity which is a ministry based in George, South Africa.
The Sports Academy uses sport as a tool to mentor and raise up positive leaders in the underprivileged townships in the area.
Sports Academy has strong Northern Irish roots as it was launched by Wayne and Suzi McAfee formerly from Castlerock in 2008. They have been living in George now for eight years running the programme which has seen over 100 young people mentored through through high school.
The Academy started as an after-school coaching programme and has expanded over the years to include working in primary schools, a weekend youth club, life skills courses, Christian discipleship and careers guidance.
The primary school programme was supported by Friends’ School Lisburn who donated funds to send over much needed equipment to help set up the programme.
If you would like to attend any of the matches or fundraisers please refer to the charity Facebook page www.facebook.com/sportsacademygeorge or website www.sportsacademygeorge.com/ for information.
The plan to reach a number of local primary schools has been a huge success which can accommodate up to 2,000 pupils a week.
Director Wayne McAfee says “This football tour is similar to one that we did in 2010. It is a fantastic way to create long term links with the schools, churches and sponsors that we are connected with. Out of the 15 boys we brought over on the last trip, 11 of them went on to further education or full time employment which is a great statistic for the area tha we work in.”
The U16 team will initially be based in Portstewart with matches scheduled against Coleraine Grammar School, Macosquin FC, Loreto College and St Columbs.
“They will travel to Belfast to challenge RBAI, Grosvenor Grammar School, Wellington College, Ashfield Boys, Sullivan Upper, Priory College, Lagan College and Carrick Grammar School. The matches along with an action packed schedule with activities including a visit to the Giants Causeway, the Ulster v Treviso match, a meeting with the Mayor of Belfast, Alderman Guy Spence and several fundraisers should prove to be the trip of a lifetime for the team.
Local businesses joined together to sponsor players flights and Lisburn based business Precious Packaging have taken part in this initiative, offering one player a chance of a lifetime to attend tour. Founder of Precious Packaging Matthew Nelson (http://www.preciouspackaging.co.uk) said ‘it is a privileged to be involved.’