Thursday, February 27, 2014

Children from Banakekeleni Orphanage cricket team overjoyed at surprise visit

Former South African cricketer Neil McKenzie surprised the children at Banakekeleni HIV/AIDS Orphanage in Marlboro when he paid their newly-started cricket team a visit to deliver new KFC Mini-Cricket kit courtesy of KFC South Africa.

McKenzie stayed on to do a little one-on-one coaching with the 8 children who comprise Banakekeleni’s cricket team during which time he shared some of the secrets he’s learned over the course of his cricketing career that made him the player he is today.

McKenzie handed over KFC Mini-Cricket sets (made up of bats, balls and stumps) and KFC branded shirts, shorts and socks to the value of R 4,000.

The idea to try and source cricket equipment for the Banakekeleni children came from Helen Fraser, the director of the Nashua Children’s Charity Foundation (NCCF).

“The NCCF has been providing aid to Banakekeleni since 2003 in the form of a monthly grocery shop that we do for the kids, bedding and linen that we have supplied and basic renovations to their buildings as well as educational toys, books and stationery,” said Fraser.

“As such, we have come to know the children at Banakekeleni well over the years which was why I found it strange one day when I visited the orphanage and found the boys in the middle of an impromptu cricket game. These kids are completely soccer-mad and yet there they were playing cricket with wooden planks for bats, an overturned paint drum for a wicket and a few pairs of tightly rolled up socks for a ball.”

Helen soon learned that a young adolescent boy named Kamvalethu Mzinzi , a KES pupil who loves cricket and has been coached in the past by KES old boy and South African cricket captain Graeme Smith, had been visiting the orphanage daily and teaching the kids how to play during his school holidays.

Helen was so impressed by the Banakekeleni boys’ enthusiasm to play cricket that she immediately got on the phone to Faf du Plessis to ask him to assist, which he willingly did by putting Helen in contact with the KFC Mini-Cricket team whose mandate is to keep kids active and develop their cricket skills from an early age.

“Over 104 000 kids from 4,700 schools participating in the programme is true testament to Cricket South Africa and KFC South Africa’s commitment to getting kids active through cricket and as a result it is only right that we also give the kids from Banakekeleni HIV/AIDS Orphanage an equal opportunity to get active,” said Lauren Turnbull KFC South Africa’s CSR and Sponsorship manager.

The next step was to try to get a famous South African cricketer to meet with the boys and do the handover. Faf had originally agreed to do the handover, but was unable to avail himself due to his commitments with the Proteas.

Helen called up Neil McKenzie, a long-time supporter of the NCCF, to see if he’d be willing to do it and he replied immediately saying he’d be happy to meet with the boys, do the handover and spend an hour or so coaching them one-on-one.

The result was a day that the aspiring young cricket stars at Banakekeleni will never forget and one in which the hardships of their daily lives were left by the side of their makeshift cricket pitch as they spent the afternoon doing what they love.

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