Sports academy for orphans gives hope to African kids

Follow-up fundraiser for the academy slated for April 22 at the Silver Chalice Pub.

A photo taken at the Nomad Sports Academy for Orphans in Livingston

A photo taken at the Nomad Sports Academy for Orphans in Livingston

By Marianne Brueckert

Our story begins in December 2016.

My family and I travelled to Africa for the purpose of seeing my mothers’ last remaining sibling.  He has lived in Zambia for over 40 years with his family, most of whom I had not met.

Having never been to Africa we had no idea what was in store.  This desire to reconnect with family is what sparked our interest in going.   My uncle’s advanced age brought a sense of urgency to this trip as I realized it may be the last time I would ever see him.

The African continent is one of the most amazing places on this planet to visit.  Although seeing family was our initial plan we also wanted to see some of the continent. The land, people, animals and the great culture.

We were fortunate to connect with Sebastian Tirtirau. Tirtirau is a travel agent and an adventure tour guide.  As luck would have it he was organizing a tour of Africa at the same time and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to combine a tour of this vast continent with seeing family.  Tirtirau has a great love of Africa and he became our guide into this foreign but fascinating land.

His connection with the people and the land is profound. After having spent many years living with the bushmen of the Kalahari he has become a supporter and advocate for the people who live there.  What was meant to be a family visit quickly became so much more as we learned of the charitable work that he has undertaken to help many of the orphan children of Mukuni Village.  We joined Tirtirau to travel to this orphanage and bring clothing, soccer gear and some basic food supplies to the children there.  This became one of the most profound experiences of our trip and a life changing event for us all, including my children.

In 2010, Tirtirau and his wife founded a charitable organization, the Nomad Sports Academy for Orphans in Livingston, Zambia.   This has been a labour of love for both and continues to motivate them to help the people who live there. They support more than 200 orphans by providing funds to pay for their education and for their care.  School is not free and without an education there is no hope to escape the cycle of poverty.   The children are eager to learn and school is a luxury that they do not take for granted. The Sports Academy goes beyond simply providing food and schooling, having recognized that these children need to be equipped with skills to help them succeed in life.  Many of these children are amazing athletes and their natural skill has been brought out through organized sports. Soccer is their favourite activity and Sebastian has been able to equip some of the kids with donated gear so they do not have to play barefoot on rough ground.

The land for the orphanage has been provided by the King of the Mukuni village and Tirtirau has put in a water system, tapping into an underground clean water source.  The charity is now trying to build dormitories for the children who are presently housed with families in the village.  Dormitories will provide a more permanent home.  The sports academy offers great hope to the young people and while offering the basics of food and shelter it also offers guidance, love, skill building and builds a strong sense of community.

On March 13, we had the opportunity to share with the community of Hope, our experience of travelling to Africa but more importantly to profile the amazing work being done by the Nomad Sports Academy and Tirtiau.

We attended and provided presentations at two schools, Silver Creek Elementary and Hope Senior Secondary as well as an evening talk at the Blue Moose. All those present were transported to another world and were engaged in learning about this vast land, the life of the people and its culture. They were encouraged to explore new cultures and in their own lives to find ways to help those who may be less fortunate. There will be opportunities to involve some of the students and adults in a future fundraising event if they are interested. Tirtirau has spent many years living in Africa, and although he is Romanian by birth, his heart is in Africa. His knowledge and understanding of this continent made these presentations fascinating.

It is one thing to see stories over the news channels and yet another to experience it firsthand.  Zambia, as with much of Africa, has been ravaged by AIDS.  The number of orphan children who are left to fend for themselves is enormous and it can feel like an impossible task to try and help.

I was struck by how little the people have and how simple their needs and wants are.  We have no idea what we take for granted.  The children of Mukuni are generally happy and content. They need shelter, food, clothing and most of all someone to love and care for them. They need to have hope for their future.  That is what the Nomad Sports Academy offers.  There is amazing work being done and we wanted to assist with some of the efforts to help make life better for those living there.  They have nothing, so everything that is done helps.

At present funds are being sought to help pay for a container that will transport items to help build and sustain the Academy.  The contents needed will include power tools, generators, medical supplies, building materials, bicycles, sports equipment, school supplies and other items to support the children.   If you are interested in what you can do to support this group you can go to nomadsportsacademy.com or the GoFundMe account at gofundme.com/2rz6f24.

Any help or involvement you may wish to have would be greatly appreciated.

We will organize a small fundraising activity on April 22 at 6 p.m. It’s a dinner and silent auction at the Silver Chalice Pub to support this great cause.

We believe that the community of Hope can help offer hope to these children half a world away.  Contact me at mariprest@hotmail.com if you want more information are interested in helping with this cause and/or being part of a fundraising effort.