Giving hope to the kids

The Herald Citizen of the Year nominee Linda Odolo-Msila with pupils Solisa Zenzile, 11, and Sibongile Zenzile, 14
Picture: Fredlin Adriaan

Young mother is using netball project to help uplift less fortunate girls

Armed with a passion for sports and a will to help in the development of local netball talent, a young mo- ther has for the past four years dedicated all her ener- gies to the upliftment of those less fortu- nate than she is.

Born and raised in Zwide, Linda Odolo-Msila, 31, who now lives in Walmer, started the Hope for Kids initiative, which coaches young girls between five and 15 not only the art of netball as a sport, but also encourages them to better themselves through discipline, focus and a healthier life- style.

“We are focused not only on netball but discipline and teach the girls from disadvantaged areas and schools what to expect when they leave primary school,” Odolo-Msila said.

She has been nominated in the open cat- egory of The Herald Citizen of the Year competition.

Speaking at Emsengeni Primary School in Zwide – where her project was started – Odolo-Msila said she was passionate about helping others through sport.

“Once you have sport on your side, you can’t go wrong,” she said.

Receiving a lot of support from the com- munities she works in, Odolo-Msila’s ini- tiative and the Let’s Play Academy operate in 33 schools in four different zones including Zwide, Kwazakhele, New Brighton and Nelson Mandela Bay’s northern areas.

“It has always been my passion to give back to the community which raised me and help others to better themselves,” the former Eastern Province netball player and mother of one said.

Odolo-Msila has coached and mentored 98 teachers at the various schools she works with and through the Let’s Play Academy has organised and hosted a number of leagues and matches among schools under her wing.

“Schools play matches against each oth- er and against former Model C schools in more affluent areas,” she said.

“To date, we have been fortunate enough to secure scholarships for five young girls to attend high schools in more privileged areas.”

Odolo-Msila has also provided a home for one of the young girls, who now lives with her, her husband Luvoyo, 33, and their three- year-old daughter, Usisipho.

“[She] lives with us because her home environment is very bad.

“She is from a very poor background where there is no one to look after her.

I help her with her homework, guide her through difficult times, feed her and make sure she goes to school “, she said.

Olodo-Msila who studies financial management at Nelson Mandela University said she saw herself continuing with the two projects for many years to come and hoped more sponsors would come on board.

“I look forward to more sponsorships because most of the schools in the area don’t have proper netball courts or facilities for the girls to practise on,” she said.

She said that she was grateful for the support she received from African Bank as her main sponsor as well as community members and the principals of the schools she works with.

” I get a lot of support from the community and the schools themselves- when I knock on their doors they are willing to assist she said.

Clifton Geswint, who has been the pro- ject manager for Odolo-Msila’s pro- grammes for the past three years and who nominated her for Citizen of the Year, said he admired her commitment and passion for what she did.

“Her reach is phenomenal, especially considering she is the only one running this project.

“[Linda] is essentially enriching child- ren’s lives and should be commended for the endless hours she pours into these projects.

“Linda offers so much of herself and does not ask for anything in return,” he said.

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