social cohesion & integration
Focus on Siya Kolisi, a South African professional rugby union player
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Some people don’t forget where they come from. They also don’t forget that sport helped them achieve their own goals in life. And, last but not least, they don’t forget to give back to their community – through a genuine personal engagement – part of what they received thanks to sport.
First ever black player to captain the South African National Rugby Union team – the Springboks, 2019 World Champions – Siya Kolisi is one of them. Having grown up in the Zwide township of Port Elisabeth, Kolisi did not wait for the Covid-19 pandemic to get involved with his community. As a child, he got a scholarship to join a prestigious school and its rugby team. It allowed him to get food, to develop self-esteem, to be educated and to start a career in rugby union.
The Community as fertile ground
Animated by the desire to serve his teammates, he himself says that being part of the national team has always been a bigger achievement than leading the team. His status has made him a major role model in South Africa and he now intends to make the most of this status and the visibility that goes with it to help others. He considers that the place and the community where he comes from contributed to shaping the man he has become, and he is proud of his origins.
Sport and education as essential tools to grow up
Kolisi acknowledges that both going to school and playing rugby allowed him to “stay on the right path”. He has always maintained sound links with his first rugby club in the township. He has visited his school and regularly gives rugby kits to his former team. Thanks to the visibility he has acquired, he partnered with the firm Panasonic to provide 10,000 solar lights to township kids, on the occasion of Nelson Mandela’s 100th birthday, who Kolisi considers as his own role model. Such lights are not simply lights. They have a concrete impact on children’s security and education: kids can do their homework inside their house at night, they can charge their mobile phones without going out and being robbed, risks of burning houses with candles have been reduced…
Giving back to the Community
During the pandemic, Siya Kolisi brought food and essential goods to locked down families in the township, remembering that these very people used to give him water and food when he was himself in need. Together with his wife, Rachel Kolisi, they started the Kolisi Foundation in March 2020. The Foundation aims at changing the narrative of inequality for people in vulnerable and disadvantaged communities in South Africa. To respond to the increased levels of food insecurity, the Kolisi Foundation, Nelson Mandela Foundation and Imbumba Foundation have partnered on an initiative called #Each1Feed1. The initiative intends on supporting families for a minimum of 3 months to combat food insecurity during the pandemic time. Furthermore, the Kolisi Foundation carries out a variety of projects, including food security, education and youth development, sports development, and programmes against gender-based violence.
Inspired by others, such as township people and President Mandela, Kolisi grew up thanks to rugby and rugby values. Involved in his community, he has become himself an inspiring person.